Punjab Governor Chaudhry Mohammad Sarwar accepted Chief Minister Usman Buzdar's resignation on Friday and summoned a session of the Punjab Assembly tomorrow for the election of a new provincial chief executive.
In an order, a copy of which is available with Dawn.com, the governor wrote: "In exercise of the powers conferred under Article 109 of the Constitution of the Islamic Republic of Pakistan, I, Mohammad Sarwar, the governor of Punjab, hereby summon the 40th session of the provincial assembly of Punjab to meet on Saturday, April 2, 2022 at 11am."
It added that the session was summoned for the election of the chief minister of Punjab under Article 130 of the Constitution.
Buzdar had presented his resignation to Prime Minister Imran Khan on March 28 after a delegation of senior lawmakers had submitted a no-trust motion against him with Punjab Assembly Secretary Muhammad Khan Bhatti on the same day.
Following Buzdar's resignation, the Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf had announced the PML-Q's Chaudhry Pervaiz Elahi as its candidate for Punjab chief minister.
The move had come as the ruling party had stepped up efforts to ensure the support of its allies ahead of a no-trust vote against Prime Minister Imran Khan, against the backdrop of multiple PTI allies joining the opposition.
The PML-Q, which is a crucial ally of the PTI government in Punjab and Centre, with 10 and five seats, respectively, had later confirmed its support for the ruling party.
In a statement issued by the PML-Q following Buzdar's resignation, Elahi was quoted as telling the premier that "as allies, we will serve the nation together". He had also assured the prime minister of the PML-Q's full cooperation, the statement said.
Elahi accelerates efforts
To be elected as chief minister a candidate will need at least 186 votes in the 371-member house.
In a bid to have at least these many lawmakers on his side, Elahi got in touch with the PTI's disgruntled Jahangir Tareen group, according to a Dawn report.
Another Dawn report said Elahi had also approached another disgruntled PTI group, commonly known as the Chheena group.
The report said Elahi, meanwhile, also stepped up efforts to garner the support of disgruntled PML-N lawmakers in the provincial assembly. According to the report, multiple PML-N lawmakers, including Niaz Khan and Faisal Niazi, had called on Elahi and assured him of their support.
The PML-N has 165 lawmakers, the PTI 183, PML-Q 10, PPP seven, independents five and Rah-i-Haq Party one in the provincial assembly. Of the 165 PML-N MPAs, four of them have defected and formed a group under Jalil Sharaqpuri, and have already been expelled from the party.
If the Tareen group doesn’t back Elahi, he would need at least three independents, Rah-i-Haq’s one and over 15 PML-N defectors.
Measures to prevent PM's ouster
At this juncture, with the voting on the election of the Punjab chief minister due tomorrow and the voting on the no-trust resolution just two days away, the PML-Q's efforts for Elahi's success have tied in with its endeavours to prevent the premature ouster of PM Imran.
Hence, Elahi has also contacted dissident MNAs of the ruling PTI, persuading them not to support the no-confidence motion against PM Imran and convincing them to support him in the election for the seat of chief minister.
In this connection, PML-Q Senator Kamil Ali Agha told Dawn the party’s priority was to ensure the no-trust move against the prime minister failed. “We are trying our best to ensure the coalition government completes its tenure.”
He further said the PML-Q was trying to persuade MNA Tariq Bashir Cheema — who has announced his support for the opposition on the trust vote — not to go against the party lin. For his part, Cheema said he was still with the Chaudhrys of Gujrat, but did not commit to changing his mind about voting against the prime minister.
Opposition's candidate for CM yet to be finalised
Meanwhile, the opposition in Punjab has yet to finalise its candidate for the post of the new chief minister.
PML-N MNA Javed Latif earlier told a private TV channel that Leader of the Opposition in the Punjab Assembly Hamza Shehbaz or disgruntled PTI MPA Aleem Khan might be the joint opposition’s candidate for the provincial chief minister.
However, another PML-N leader later told Dawn: "As Hamza’s father Shehbaz Sharif is nominated for the prime minister’s office by the joint opposition, it does not want to give two top posts to ‘one party and one family’ in the post-Imran Khan scenario."