Punjab Assembly: Voting to elect new leader of the house to be held on Sunday

Published April 2, 2022
Punjab Assembly during today's session. — Photo: DawnNewsTV
Punjab Assembly during today's session. — Photo: DawnNewsTV

The Punjab Assembly (PA) will go to vote on Sunday (tomorrow) to find the new leader of the house following Usman Buzdar's resignation.

The development occurred after the session was held briefly today after four hours of delays and amid sloganeering from both opposition and treasury benches. The session was subsequently adjourned till 11:30am tomorrow.

According to the assembly secretary, nomination papers for the position could be submitted to his office till 5pm today while their scrutiny would commence at 6pm.

The voting process will be carried out through the parliamentary mode of open division of the house where members record their preference in registers placed at the doors leading to lobbies meant for treasury and opposition members.

Punjab Assembly Speaker Chaudhry Pervez Elahi, who is from the PML-Q but is the PTI's candidate for the vacant chief minister slot, presided today's session, while Hamza Shehbaz — the PML-N's candidate — was also in attendance.

Elahi, upon his arrival at the assembly, responded in the affirmative when asked by reporters if he would be able to secure more votes in the battle for Punjab chief ministry.

On the other hand, Hamza said securing the chief ministry was not the ultimate purpose of the opposition's efforts, adding that a roadmap would be built for the province's overall betterment.

Jahangir Tarin group announces support for PML-N's Hamza

Later, while addressing a press conference in alongside Hamza, Punjab MPA Nauman Langrial formally announced Jahangir Khan Tareen (JKT) group's support for the PML-N scion for the Punjab chief ministry.

He said the group — which comprises PTI dissidents — made its decision based on "honesty, sincerity and for the country's sake", adding that the group hoped Hamza would serve the province well.

Langrial said the group would "fully support" Hamza but also point out any "wrongdoings and also try to stop them".

The JKT group leader lashed out at outgoing chief minister Buzdar, alleging that he had promoted corruption and damaged the PTI.

In reply to a question, Langrial said that there was no "deal" behind the Tareen group's decision to support Hamza.

"We have not discussed any demands or positions [with them]. None of us has demanded any seat," he said.

Hamza, meanwhile, thanked the Tareen group for showing confidence in his leadership as well as that of Shehbaz Sharif and Nawaz Sharif.

The PML-N leader then turned his guns on the ruling PTI, alleging that it had turned Punjab into a "hub of corruption".

"Instead of turning this country into a naya (new) Pakistan, they have buried old Pakistan under their incompetence and corruption," he remarked.

He vowed to steer the province towards the "path of progress, where [erstwhile CM] Shehbaz Sharif had left it" before the PTI's tenure.

Prior to the start of today's session, PML-N leader Uzma Bukhari said that if voting takes place today then it would herald a return of the mandate which she claimed was "stolen" from the PML-N.

"Today, the mandate that was our right and given to us by Punjab's people is going to be returned to us with Hamza Shehbaz's success [in the chief minister vote]," she said.

Bukhari also lashed out at Elahi, alleging that he was trying to influence the vote. "This attempt of his won't be successful," she added.

The top ministerial slot of the largest province fell vacant with the acceptance of Punjab Chief Minister Usman Buzdar's resignation by Governor Chaudhry Mohammad Sarwar on Friday, followed by an immediate summoning of the PA session for today in order to elect the new provincial chief.

However, Punjab Assembly Secretary Muhammad Khan Bhatti on Saturday said voting to elect the new Punjab chief minister would not take place today. Talking to the media in Lahore, Bhatti said only the schedule would be issued in today's assembly session and "there will be no [other] proceeding."

Bhatti did not give a reason why the voting would not be held today but did say that it was the assembly speaker's right whether he set the vote for Sunday or Monday.

He said the business advisory committee would meet today to decide when the chief minister would be elected.

The Punjab government had de-notified CM Buzdar after the acceptance of his resignation but in the same notification allowed him “to continue to hold office until his successor enters upon the office”. In an array of notifications, the provincial government had also denotified all the 37 provincial ministers, five advisers to the chief minister and five special assistants to the chief minister.

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 PTI had announced the PML-Q's Chaudhry Pervez Elahi as its candidate for Punjab's 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 the premier, 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.

To be elected as chief minister a candidate will need at least 186 votes in the 371-member house.

In the 371-member Punjab Assembly, the PTI has 183 lawmakers, PML-Q 10, PML-N 165, PPP seven, five are independent and one belongs to Rah-i-Haq.

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.

Opposition caught off-guard

The hurriedly called PA session had caught the opposition off-guard. Each side claimed to have the support of provincial lawmakers to secure the much-needed 186 votes in the 371-member house to occupy the top office in Punjab.

The PML-N finalised the name of Hamza Shehbaz after its approval by the party supremo.

The PTI camp, now led by Elahi, entered into deep consultations and manoeuvrings with MPAs across the political divide. The ruling coalition camp was buzzing with activities ranging from meeting the visitors, calling different lawmakers and seeking time for PML-Q’s top leadership visit for their assured support.

The PTI and PML-Q also held their joint parliamentary meeting at the chief minister’s secretariat and showed a strength of over 150 MPAs, which included those belonging to the PML-N.

A senior PML-Q leader had said: “We have secured the assurance of MPAs to achieve the magic number of 186 votes to defeat the joint opposition in the chief minister’s election on Saturday (today).” However, PML-N leader Rana Mashhood claimed that there was a rift amongst PTI legislators as many of them were annoyed how a party with only 10 MPAs could be given the CM’s slot.

Tareen, Chheena groups

The disgruntled factions of the ruling PTI, better known as the Jahangir Tareen and Chheena groups, are being considered a decisive factor in the Punjab chief executive’s election.

The Chheena group, with 14 MPAs, announced its support for the candidature of Elahi as chief minister after he personally visited them at group leader Ghazanfar Abbas Chheena’s residence.

“The Parvez Elahi group has wooed many of the 17 MPAs so far united under the leadership of Jahangir Tareen,” claimed a PML-Q leader, explaining that many of those forced to quit the Q-League to join the PTI ahead of 2018 general elections had returned.

Considering Elahi’s political stature and respect across the political divide that was demonstrated in his Punjab Assembly Speaker election, the PML-Q leader said many of the PML-N legislators had approached Elahi and expressed their support in Saturday’s election. Five PML-N MPAs, who have been show-caused by the PML-N, are also on the side of the PML-Q as well as four of the five independents are also supporting Elahi, claimed another PML-Q leader.

“The immediate calling of the Punjab Assembly session and holding of elections early next morning is part of government’s plan to catch the opposition off-guard,” a PTI leader told had Dawn requesting anonymity.

Opposition activities

The PML-N had called its MPAs to its party secretariat as the senior leadership of the opposition was consulting the Jahangir Tareen group for its support. The opposition had already hinted not to offer the top office to the Jahangir Tareen group on Friday evening.

Meanwhile, four of the 165 PML-N legislators defected and formed a group under Jalil Sharqpuri.

“The PML-N leadership has offered ministries to the Tareen group MPAs whose number is up to 17 and the party ticket for next polls. Aleem will be happy if cases against him are not pursued by the new government,” a source said, adding the PML-N doubted the commitments of some Tareen group members as they were also in contact with Elahi.

The PML-N sounded worried over Elahi’s move to ‘poach’ their MPAs. “We have reports that Mr Elahi being PA Speaker contacted a number of our MPAs. Since he enjoys good relations with both the ruling and opposition lawmakers, he is trying his best to secure the support of some of them [PML-N MPAs] to secure his win,” a PML-N provincial lawmaker had told Dawn.

According to the PML-N sources, the PPP that has seven votes in the provincial assembly has sought the offices of the governor and speaker from the PML-N. “The PPP will fully support our candidate. There has already been a settlement among the leadership of PML-N and PPP about the power-sharing formula in the post-PTI government scenario. The PPP will either get the speaker and a ministry in Punjab or the governor post,” a PML-N insider had told Dawn.

He had said: “There were some other names even from strong Jehangir Tareen group for the slot but this ‘24 hours notice’ has left us to evolve a consensus on the opposition leader [for the CM slot].”

He had said that earlier there was an opinion in the PML-N ranks that since party president Shehbaz Sharif was going to replace Prime Minister Imran Khan once the no-confidence motion succeeded, his son, Hamza, shouldn’t be considered for the top post in Punjab.

“Even a couple of PPP leaders had questioned the father and son duo grabbing top slots in the Centre and Punjab when this proposal was discussed in the joint opposition meeting,” he had said. One of them (PPP leader) had requested PPP leader Asif Zardari to speak to PML-N supremo Nawaz Sharif to give the CM office to the PPP for an interim period.

At the same time, the joint opposition’s top men could not find time to deliberate much on the Tareen group’s request to consider its Saeed Akbar Nawani from Bhakkar for the CM slot. Similarly, disgruntled PTI MPA Aleem Khan’s hopes to seek endorsement from the PML-N leadership for the top position were also dashed as he failed to demonstrate the support of some MPAs with him.



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