Amid widespread confusion over a crucial session of the Punjab Assembly (PA) to elect the new chief minister, Deputy Speaker Sardar Dost Muhammad Mazari on Wednesday dispelled the notion it had been postponed till April 16 and asserted that it would be held at 7:30pm today.
On Tuesday, Mazari had moved the assembly session for electing the province's next chief minister to April 16 at 11:30am, citing repair and maintenance work in the assembly hall as the reason.
However, in a late night development, he had superseded his earlier order and summoned the PA to meet at 7:30pm today — a development that was denied by a spokesperson for the provincial assembly and the Pakistan Muslim League-Quaid (PML-Q).
Speaking to DawnNewsTV, the deputy speaker asserted that the assembly session would be held today. He also accused some PA staff members of playing the "wrong role" in the convening of the session, stating that they were "spreading confusion".
"The session has been scheduled for today in light of the directions of the Supreme Court," he said, adding that the same had been conveyed to PML-Q leader Chaudhry Parvez Elahi, who is the PTI's candidate for the top slot and the incumbent PA speaker.
On Tuesday, the Supreme Court had dictated an order highlighting the assurance held out by Punjab Advocate General Ahmed Awais that the proceedings of the PA would be conducted today within the ambit of the law and the Constitution.
Mazari went on to say that he would play his "constitutional role" in the election for the province's chief minister. "Elahi will oversee the matter of suspending MPAs in case of vandalism," he said, adding that he had not issued directives to suspend the membership of any lawmaker.
He said that he had issued the notification for convening the session today after consulting with his lawyers and stood by it.
'Session will not be held today'
Separately, the spokesperson for the PA speaker, claimed that the assembly session would be held on April 16.
"The assembly session has been adjourned till April 16 due to ongoing repair work," Dr Zain Ali said, adding that the assembly hall and the lobby sustained damage due to "commotion".
"The assembly session will not be held today," he concluded.
On Tuesday, PML-Q leader Moonis Elahi had told Dawn that the new notification issued by the deputy speaker was ‘fake’ as it did not have a diary number and was written on a plain piece of paper and had asserted that the session would be held on April 16.
Meanwhile, the PML-N has said that its own MPAs as well as dissidents from the PTI will converge at the assembly today to push for convening the session without any delay.
Punjab chief minister election
The provincial assembly has to elect the new leader of the house after Usman Buzdar resigned last month after a no-confidence motion was submitted against him. PML-Q's Elahi and PML-N's Hamza Shehbaz, who has secured the support of PTI's dissident lawmakers, the Jahangir Khan Tarin and Aleem Khan groups, are expected to go head to head in the race to become the next chief minister.
To be elected as chief minister, a candidate will need at least 186 votes in the 371-member house.
In the 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.
The decisive factor in the election will be the support of the Jahangir Tarin group, which is said to have the votes of at least 16 MPAs.