Punjab govt mulling action against dissidents ahead of CM’s election

Published April 9, 2022
Coalition’s candidate for the CM’s slot Parvez Elahi’s spokesman Fayyazul Hassan Chohan speaks to the media on Friday. — YouTube screengrab
Coalition’s candidate for the CM’s slot Parvez Elahi’s spokesman Fayyazul Hassan Chohan speaks to the media on Friday. — YouTube screengrab

LAHORE: The Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI) and PML-Q ruling coalition in Punjab is working on springing a surprise for the joint opposition to block Hamza Shehbaz’s election as the chief minister of the province.

The allies claim to get at least 24 ruling party dissidents disqualified under the Constitution’s defection clause under Article 63A or restrain them from voting against the party line under Article 63A(1) – to strip off the joint opposition’s majority in the Punjab Assembly for the April 16 election for the chief minister.

However, the PML-N believes the clause wouldn’t apply to the dissidents since they won’t be voting against a candidate from their own party, but from an allied party.

If the opposition is unable to show the required strength of 186 MPAs during the election, PTI leaders say, the Punjab Assembly would have to go for a “run-off election”, wherein a winner would only need a simple majority in the House.

Disqualification, court’s restraining order under defection clauses being considered

Mr Shehbaz had shown the support of 199 MPAs for him as the chief minister at a mock assembly session at a local hotel, which included at least 24 PTI dissidents commonly known as the Jahangir Tareen, Aleem Khan and former provincial minister Malik Asad Khokhar groups.

On the other hand, the PTI, on Friday, issued show-cause notices to its 24 dissident MPAs and asked them to appear at the party office and explain why they were being seen as showing support to the opposition parties. The notices have been issued on the basis of videos displayed on TV channels, newspaper reports and other ‘evidence’.

In case the dissident MPAs fail to appear or explain their position, party chairman Imran Khan will send a reference against each MPA to the Punjab Assembly speaker and the Election Commission of Pakistan.

Meanwhile, the coalition’s candidate for the CM’s slot Parvez Elahi’s spokesman Fayyazul Hassan Chohan confirmed at a media talk that the Punjab Assembly speaker’s office had completed the spadework to take action against the dissidents and a reference would be sent to the ECP.

Since the ECP can take up to 30 days to decide on the reference, the PTI government plans to file a petition in the Lahore High Court to restrain its MPAs from polling for the opposition – to pave the way for a run-off election.

“I will myself approach the Lahore High Court on Monday seeking a restraint order against PTI dissident MPAs from polling their votes in violation of the party instructions under Article 63A(1) of the Constitution,” Mr Chohan said while speaking to the media on the Punjab Assembly premises.

He said he would ask the court to deliver a prompt decision against the dissidents as they were ridiculing the mandate of millions of people of Pakistan. The dissident MPAs’ votes would only hold any value when polled for their own party.

Mr Chohan also welcomed the Supreme Court’s decision against the National Assembly deputy speaker’s ruling dismissing the no-confidence motion against Prime Minister Imran Khan and subsequent dissolution of the assembly.

PM Khan had recently asked all PTI MPAs in Punjab, in a tweet, to ensure their vote for Mr Elahi in the CM’s election. “Any PTI MPA going against party direction, including abstaining from vote, will be disqualified and face strict disciplinary action,” Mr Khan had warned.

In order to drive Punjab Assembly proceedings as per the government’s whims, Elahi, being the speaker, had withdrawn the powers delegated to the deputy speaker through a notification. The assembly proceedings will likely be administered through a nominee on the Panel of Chairmen of the Punjab Assembly.

The PML-Q and PTI members have already submitted a no-confidence motion against Deputy Speaker Dost Muhammad Mazari, demanding his removal.

Meanwhile, some TV channels reported that some important files and documents had been removed from the Punjab Assembly as a safeguard, in case the PML-N formed a government. The channels, quoting assembly secretariat officials, also reported that the documents were related to recruitments, contracts for the construction, repair and maintenance of assembly building.

However, the speaker’s spokesman Chohan vehemently denied the reports.

PML-N on defection proceedings

Meanwhile, the opposition PML-N claims that since the dissident PTI MPAs were going to vote against an allied par­ty’s (PML-Q) candidate and not one from their own party, def­­ection clause of the Constitution would not apply to them.

“Mr (Parvez) Elahi is not the parliamentary leader of the PTI therefore all those PTI lawmakers who will vote against him in the CM’s election can’t be de-seated,” asserted the outspoken PML-N Punjab information secretary Azma Bokhari.

Zulqernain Tahir also contributed to this report.

Published in Dawn, April 9th, 2022

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