LAHORE - Punjab Governor Ch Muhammad Sarwar resigned on Wednesday night from his ceremonial office, saying he intends to pursue a career in politics by joining a political party.

The news of his resignation did not come as a surprise for anybody as he had already made his intentions clear to quit the office citing his inability to do anything good for the people in his capacity as governor.

Since assuming the charge of his office in August 2013, Sarwar has been critical of PML-N government for its failure to deliver and the rotten bureaucratic system which he believed had nothing to offer to the common man.

He has also been a strong advocate of local bodies system and asked the government many a times to hold local government elections at the earliest. “Democracy is incomplete without devolution of power at the union council level,” he would say.

“Cruelty and injustice is on the rise in Pakistan. Incidents of rape and throwing acid on women have become order of the day. Land mafia reigns supreme. The murderers are roaming around with impunity while nobody listens to the aggrieved party. The land grabbers are more powerful than a governor,” he said while citing the reasons which compelled him to resign.

A day before tendering the resignation, he had termed US President Obama’s decision not to visit Pakistan on his India visit a diplomatic failure of the government.

Presence of over 20 million out-of-school children and non-availability of clean drinking water to half of country’s population have also been Sarwar’s main concerns while in office.

His differences with the House of Sharif came out in the open August last year when he started criticising the government on various counts. He then had meetings with Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif and Punjab Chief Minister Shahbaz Sharif and offered his resignation. But he was asked to continue in his office till they found some suitable person to replace him.

Sarwar’s hard-hitting statements against the government when it was under tremendous pressure at the time of the sit-ins led by PTI chief Imran Khan and PAT leader Dr Tahirul Qadri, raised questions about his future intentions. He also gave frequent interviews to the print and electronic media at the time to highlight incidents of bad governance.

As per sources, there is greater likelihood of his joining the PTI if he is offered some respectable position. PPP chief Asif Ali Zardari, who talked to him on telephone after the news of his resignation went on air, is also willing to assign him a role in his party. It may be recalled here that Ch Sarwar had also cultivated good relations with slain PPP leader Benazir Bhutto.

Sarwar’s close friends say he may form his own party if he fails to find proper adjustment in any of the existing political parties. He is scheduled to leave for England on February 2 but only to return after two weeks. “I would announce my future course of action after consultation with my friends,” he told reporters at a hurriedly convened news conference at Governor House.

He also dispelled the impression that he was going to leave the country for good. “I would not do what the two former prime ministers, Shaukat Aziz and Moeen Qureshi, had done. I will live and die here, and do for the people whatever I could in my personal capacity,” he said, adding that he had come to realise that he could serve the people better outside the Governor House.

During the course of his news conference, Sarwar sought forgiveness from the overseas Pakistanis for his inability to resolve their problems. “They send up to 25 billion dollars a year back home, but the government is oblivious of their grievances. Their homes and properties are not safe here,” the outgoing governor complained.

Earlier, efforts by the government to stop him from holding a press conference did not succeed. Punjab Chief Minister Shahbaz Sharif sent Rana Sanaullah to persuade him but Sarwar did not oblige him. He later told media men that he had no intention to speak to the media but he was forced to do so because false news about his forced resignation was aired on a news channel.

“I want to make it clear that nobody asked me to resign. I sent my resignation on my own to the Presidency on Wednesday night. I had offered to quit some four months back but was asked to continue,” he maintained.

At the start of his news conference, he told the media that speaking truth in Pakistan was considered a great sin. “But I would speak the truth even if heavens falls,” he averred, adding that there was dearth of people here who could call a spade a spade.

He said he had been vocal against the British government in the past as member of the British Parliament. He also made it clear that he had no personal differences with the Sharifs. “I differed with them only on issues,” he asserted.

Commenting on US President Obama’s statement that his country would support India’s bid to become a permanent member of the UNSC, Ch Sarwar said this should not happen before resolution of the Kashmir dispute. He moaned that 1.5 billion Muslims in the world had no representation at the UNSC.

Staff reporter adds from Islamabad: President Mamnoon Hussain on Thursday accepted the resignation of Punjab Governor Ch Muhammad Sarwar.

On a summary initiated by the Cabinet Division, the President has approved the Prime Minister’s advice for acceptance of resignation of Chaudhry Muhammad Sarwar, Governor Punjab.

Meanwhile, the federal government has appointed Speaker Punjab Assembly Rana Muhammad Iqbal Khan as acting governor Punjab.

Punjab Assembly Deputy Speaker Sardar Sher Ali Khan Gorchani will perform Khan’s duty as speaker of the Punjab Assembly for the time being.

Sources in the PML-N said the top leadership contemplated a few names for the post before Sarwar’s resignation.

They said Chaudhry Saud Majeed is still a frontrunner among candidates for the race of the Punjab governorship due to several reasons.