LAHORE: After two turbulent weeks and legal wrangling, the Punjab Assembly is all set to hold the chief minister’s election on Saturday (today).

The contest is between PTI ally’s leader Chaudhry Parvez Elahi and opposition parties’ candidate Hamza Shehbaz.

Elaborate security arrangements have been made in and around the assembly to prevent any untoward incident before and after the chief minister’s election. Rangers have also been called to support the law-enforcement agencies.

Knowing well that the PTI coalition candidate Parvez Elahi has failed to muster the support of 186 MPAs required to win the chief minister election, the PTI and PML-Q are now hoping against hope that the joint opposition should also not be able to show the magic number of 186. The sitting government is alleged to have tried to use the state power but failed.

Parvez Elahi counts on a miracle to get the magic number

“The PML-Q’s only hope is that the opposition fails to show 186 MPAs for Hamza Shehbaz’s election as chief minister and both sides may go for ‘run-off’ election and show a simple majority,” a dissident said on the condition of anonymity.

“All the 24 dissident MPAs are standing with the opposition as they were hurt by their party leaders in its three years and eight months rule in the Centre and Punjab,” the MPA added.

“A candidate having 186 votes will become chief minister and if no one shows this magic number, any candidate showing simple majority will become the Punjab chief minister,” Fayyazul Hassan Chohan told media persons here on Friday.

Without explaining, Mr Chohan said the PTI and PML-Q had another option if money was used in the chief minister’s election as was the case in the National Assembly.

Mr Chohan, who is a spokesman for Parvez Elahi, said he was urging the dissident MPAs to return to their party as they, under the law, would not get any benefit from the PML-N government. Instead, he said, they would be unseated and disqualified through a process by the Election Commission of Pakistan.

He claimed that the dissident MPAs had started contacting Mr Elahi as they were being pressurised by their families due to former PM Imran Khan’s popularity in the public.

Though the Lahore High Court decided that Deputy Speaker Dost Mazari would chair the session, he continued stating that Mazari had become partial and now anyone from panel of chairmen should be allowed to chair the assembly session.

As a media person asked whether former PM Imran Khan had sold gifts deposited with the Toshakhana, Mr Chohan did not respond and said this question was being asked by those who looted this country with both hands.

A PML-N MPA said the PTI coalition government tried its best to browbeat the chief secretary and the IGP into submission but failed. In yet another attempt, the MPA said, the PTI’s hopes were dashed when the federal government did not entertain the summaries sent by Chief Minister Usman Buzdar.

In yet another move on Friday, the federal government transferred Punjab Additional Chief Secretary (Home) Zafar Nasrullah Khan and made him OSD. Mr Khan has been directed to report to the Establishment Division until further orders.

Sources say Mr Nasrullah at the behest of the PTI government was dictating the sitting IGP to round up the dissident MPAs so that they should not be able to poll vote in the CM election. He is also being accused of corruption in the PTI government.

Punjab Additional Chief Secretary Syed Ali Murtaza, who has been entrusted with additional charge of the ACS (Home), has banned the entry of unauthorised persons within 500 meters of the assembly premises. The authorised persons are MPAs, notable political leaders (not exceeding 40), official staff of the assembly, authorised staff of the law department, members of law-enforcement agencies and media persons.

The ACS (Home) has also banned gathering of five or more persons other than authorised persons within 1,000 meters of premises of the Punjab Assembly.

Deputy Speaker Dost Muhammad Mazari, who has been restored to his position after the LHC overturned Speaker Parvez Elahi’s order of withdrawing his powers, asserted that no MPA would be stopped from voting for the chief minister’s election. He said he would ensure that the media persons be allowed hassle-free entry to the Press Gallery ahead of the election.

A little later, Mr Mazari alleged the assembly secretariat was not cooperating with him despite court orders.

Published in Dawn, April 16th, 2022

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