Punjab Assembly (PA) Speaker Chaudhry Parvez Elahi on Thursday filed an intra-court appeal against the Lahore High Court's (LHC) decision to restore the powers of PA Deputy Speaker Sardar Dost Mazari.
Yesterday, LHC Chief Justice Ameer Bhatti had set aside Elahi's notification — whereby the powers of the deputy speaker had been withdrawn — and instructed Mazari to conduct the chief minister’s election on the previously fixed date of April 16.
Elahi and Leader of Opposition in PA Hamza Shehbaz are in the run for the post of chief minister after the resignation of Sardar Usman Buzdar.
The short order passed on the petitions of opposition leader and deputy speaker had said: “It is directed that the Deputy Speaker on the date fixed i.e. April 16, 2022 shall proceed to elect the Chief Minister in terms of sub-Article (3) of Article 130 of the Constitution read with Rule 20 of the Rules of Procedure and all other enabling provisions and powers in this behalf.”
It had also said that all the respondents, including the provincial government, shall not, in any manner, hinder, obstruct, or interfere with any member of the provincial assembly who wishes to attend the session and to cast their votes for the election of the new chief minister.
In his appeal submitted today, a copy of which is available with Dawn.com, Elahi named the Provincial Assembly of Punjab through its secretary, IGP Rao Sardar Ali Khan, Province of Punjab through its chief secretary, and Mazari as respondents.
He contended that the deputy speaker's actions on April 7 — the day Mazari chaired a mock assembly session with PML-N lawmakers at a private hotel in Lahore — violated the rules and procedure of the Provincial Assembly.
"Hence, the order of the bench [LHC] is not sustainable in law and is liable to set aside (impugned order)," the appeal stated.
It also said that the court's order was against the laws and facts of the case, and was not maintainable in terms of Article 69 of the Constitution which states that the internal business/proceedings of the Provincial Assembly can't be called in question before any court.
"The impugned order has been passed in total negation to the Rules of Procedure of the Provincial Assembly of Punjab,1997, as well as various articles contained in the Constitution," the appellant added.
The PML-Q leader further called on the court to suspend the order during the pendency of the appeal.
Meanwhile, PML-Q Secretary General Kamal Ali Agha filed a separate appeal in court today as well. It stated that conduct of the deputy speaker had been "compromised" and against discipline.
"The deputy speaker is legally unable to preside over the session, as a no-confidence motion was also moved against him," it pointed out, adding that Mazari expressed his grievances against the PA speaker on a television programme last night which had raised questions on the deputy speaker's impartiality, individuality, and oath.
PTI moves court against Mazari
On the other hand, the Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf also approached the high court today requesting it to restrain Mazari from holding chair in the Punjab CM election scheduled on April 16.
The petition, filed by PTI parliamentary leader Muhammad Sibtain Khan and MPAs Zainab Umair and Seemabia Tahir, named the Punjab chief secretary, Mazari and PA secretary as respondents.
It stated that a no-trust motion was pending against the deputy speaker and he therefore could not chair the April 16 session as he had lost trust of the party and the house.
"As per rules of business of the PA, in the absence of speaker and deputy speaker, one person from the panel of chairmen can hold the session of the assembly but the respondent [Mazari] is presiding the session unlawfully," the petitioners argued.
They also accused Mazari of "joining hands" with opponent candidate Hamza Shahbaz.
Consequently, the PTI leaders called on the court to bar Mazari from holding the upcoming CM election and issue orders to select a member from the panel of chairmen to preside over the April 16 session.
Punjab CM election
The Punjab Assembly (PA) has to elect the new leader of the house after Usman Buzdar resigned last month. PML-Q's Chaudhry Pervaiz Elahi and PML-N's Hamza, 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 dissident PTI lawmakers that are part of the Jahangir Tarin and Aleem Khan groups.
On Thursday, the opposition submitted a no-confidence motion against Elahi, who is also the PA speaker, further squeezing space for the provincial government to play its cards.
The move came after the PML-N-led opposition had been barred from entering the PA, as it was sealed after Elahi declared Deputy Speaker Dost Muhammad Mazari’s ‘order’ to summon the session ‘illegal’.
According to the assembly secretariat, the session will be convened on April 16 as per an earlier notification of the assembly signed by the deputy speaker. Elahi had used his authority as the speaker and ordered withdrawal of powers delegated to Mazari with immediate effect.
Mazari’s power to preside over a session was also snatched following the submission of a no-confidence motion against him by his own fellow lawmakers in the PTI-PML-Q coalition. His sudden change of heart was termed the ‘handiwork’ of the PML-N leadership that allegedly wooed him through a ‘good offer’.