PTI workers surround the hotel where PML-N MPAs are staying along with disgruntled PTI lawmakers.—Murtaza Ali / White Star
PTI workers surround the hotel where PML-N MPAs are staying along with disgruntled PTI lawmakers.—Murtaza Ali / White Star

LAHORE: Workers of the PTI on Monday besieged a hotel here in Gulberg where hundreds of PML-N MPAs were staying besides the disgruntled lawmakers of the ruling PTI ahead of the crucial election of the Punjab chief minister scheduled for Wednesday (tomorrow).

Holding placards and banners, the PTI workers shouted slogans against their party fellows inside the hotel. They demanded the PML-N ‘release’ their lawmakers — said to be around 20 of them.

PTI Punjab information secretary Mussarat Jamshed Cheema had given a call to party workers and office-bearers to reach the hotel to protest against the ‘party traitors’.

The charged workers also tried to forcibly enter the hotel by removing the barriers. At this point, some PML-N lawmakers also came out of their hotel rooms and started raising slogans against Imran Khan. The situation remained tense for an hour and a half and traffic remained out of gear on Main Boulevard, Gulberg, for several hours.

Hamza fears 40 MPAs may be suspended to prevent them from voting in election for CM

Some ‘aggressive’ PML-N lawmakers inside the hotel warned the Punjab government to control the ruling party activists, otherwise they would be compelled to give a call to their workers to reach the hotel too. Additional police force was deployed outside the hotel to protect the lawmakers.

MPAs Azma Bokhari, Salman Rafique and Raheela Khadim said the opposition could teach a lesson to the PTI over its fascist tactics, but it was observing restraint. “Our workers are just one call away. The PTI needs to be careful and should not indulge in violence,” Ms Bokhari warned.

However, later in the evening, a heavy police contingent managed to push the PTI workers away from the hotel premises and avert an imminent clash.

Leader of the Opposition in the Punjab Assembly Hamza Sheh­baz, also a nominee for the chief minister’s post, claimed that some 200 MPAs were present in the hotel when the PTI activists tried to barge in.

Plan to suspend 40 MPAs

At a press conference here on Monday, Hamza claimed that the Punjab Assembly deputy speaker might suspend over 40 opposition as well as PTI dissident lawmakers ahead of the chief minister’s election on Wednesday.

He alleged that the Punjab government got the offices of Punjab Assembly ransacked by their men and wanted to pin it on the opposition. “There is a plan to suspend over 40 MPAs to prevent them from voting in the election for the chief minister,” Hamza alleged.

The PML-N leader further said that according to the Supreme Court’s directives, no lawmaker could be stopped from casting his/her vote. “I ask Mr Elahi to compete with us fairly, and if he wins thro­ugh votes, we will accept it.”

Hamza asked Imran Khan not to consider Pakistan his personal property by indulging in unconstitutional acts.

Meanwhile, Punjab Assem­bly Deputy Speaker Dost Mazari constituted a committee to assess the damage allegedly caused by the opposition MPAs, led by PML-N’s Rana Mashhood, to the assembly.

According to the assembly office, the opposition lawmakers had damaged furniture, portraits and security instruments during their protest on Sunday. The committee has also been tasked with fixing responsibility in this regard.

CM’s election

With the election for a new CM expected on Wednesday, the ruling coalition’s nominee Parvez Elahi has devised his strategy.

“Hectic efforts are under way to placate the angry PTI lawmakers. Mr Elahi is using his connections to make sure that they do not defect. He is also in touch with PML-N MPAs and hoping some of them vote for him,” a party insider told Dawn.

He said it would not be an easy sail for Hamza. “The opposition should be ready for a surprise,” he added.

Published in Dawn, April 5th, 2022

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