• Punjab CS, IGP told to ensure foolproof security for election
• Police tell court no PTI dissident MPA has complained of detention
• PML-N says holding Iftars at CM House won’t help Elahi win today’s contest
LAHORE: Rejecting the pleas of Punjab Assembly Speaker Chaudhry Parvez Elahi and his party PML-Q, a Lahore High Court division bench on Friday directed Deputy Speaker Dost Muhammad Mazari to conduct the election for the new chief minister of the province in a fair, transparent and impartial manner on April 16 (today).
A tough contest is expected between the ruling coalition’s Parvez Elahi and opposition’s joint candidate Hamza Shehbaz.
The bench further directed the deputy speaker to facilitate national/international observers, media persons, representatives of the Pakistan Institute of Legislative Development and Transparency, Free and Fair Election Network and other organisations during the election.
The bench comprising Justice Shujaat Ali Khan and Justice Jawad Hassan ordered the Punjab chief secretary and inspector general of police (IGP) to ensure foolproof security for the election day (today).
IGP Rao Sardar Ali Khan, present in court, stated that all possible measures had been taken for safe and smooth arrival of MPAs to the assembly whereas internal security of the House was to be catered for by the assembly secretary in coordination with the security staff.
Chief Secretary Kamran Ali Afzal, also present before the court, said all the departments had been directed to facilitate the election for the leader of the House of the provincial assembly.
The bench observed that in the event of any complaint by any side, rapid action shall be taken against the delinquent(s).
The speaker and the PML-Q had challenged a decision of a single bench whereby the judge superimposed the condition that the deputy speaker shall preside over the chair despite the fact that he had himself approached the court seeking permission to conduct the election of the chief minister. They had also argued that there was a no-confidence motion pending against the deputy speaker.
However, the two-judge bench rejected the arguments of the appellants and upheld the decision of the single bench. In its 31-page judgement, it observed that since the speaker was unable to preside over the assembly proceedings due to him contesting for the post of chief minister, the deputy speaker shall exercise the powers of the speaker in terms of Section 53(3) of the Constitution for holding elections scheduled for April 16.
It observed that a bird’s eye view over the rules made it vividly clear that the question of conduct of the assembly session through the panel of chairmen only arises when the speaker or deputy speaker are not present. But during the presence of the deputy speaker, the matter cannot be referred to the panel of chairmen at the whims of the appellants, the bench added.
It remarked: “It is very strange to note that on the one hand the appellants are of the view that this court cannot intrude into the internal affairs of the assembly, but on the other they are pressing hard for passing an order in violation of the 1997 Rules.”
Rejecting another argument of the appellants, the bench stated that since the motion of no-confidence was not being considered against the deputy speaker in the assembly session scheduled for April 16, he could not be considered incompetent to preside over the said session.
With these observations the bench disposed of the appeals.
PTI MPAs ‘not detained’
Separately, the Lahore city police on Friday told the LHC that no complaint had been received about the kidnap or detention of any MPA of the Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI).
A report submitted before the court stated that the police’s deputy inspector general (operations) received no complaint about any parliamentarian. The court had sought a police report on a habeas corpus petition filed by PTI provincial minister Sibtain Khan for the “recovery” of PTI (reserved seats) MPAs Uzma Kardar, Ijaz Alam Augustine, Sajida Yousaf and Ayesha Chaudhry from the alleged illegal detention of opposition parties.
The police report revealed that MPAs Kardar and Augustine had been called on their mobile phones and they categorically denied any detention by anyone. It said the other two MPAs could not be contacted due to the paucity of time. But both Kardar and Augustine affirmed that Ms Yousaf and Ms Chaudhry were also not in any detention, the report added.
After going through the police report, the court adjourned the hearing till April 18.
The petition had claimed that the four PTI MPAs left the assembly premises to go to their residences, but were ‘kidnapped’ by Leader of the Opposition in Punjab Assembly Hamza Shehbaz. It was an open secret that some of the detainees had been kept in illegal custody by the respondent (Hamza) in a Gulberg hotel in Lahore, it alleged.
The petitioner sought an order to the police to recover and produce the alleged detainees before the court so they could be set free.
Meanwhile, the PML-N has welcomed the detailed judgement of the LHC in the Punjab chief minister’s election case. The party’s Punjab spokesperson Azma Bokhari said the PML-N welcomes the verdict, which makes it clear that Mr Parvez Elahi, being a candidate for the CM’s slot, cannot use his powers as the Punjab Assembly speaker.
She says her party also stands vindicated on the issue of postponing the election to April 16 on the pretext that the assembly chamber was not fit to be used for the purpose due to the minor damages to its furniture and fixtures caused by a clash between treasury and opposition MPAs.
As per the LHC verdict, Mr Elahi could not have withdrawn the speaker’s powers from the deputy speaker, she further stated.
The PML-N MPA said the PTI-PML-Q nominee for CM office, Parvez Elahi used delaying tactics sensing his defeat in the election because 199 MPAs out of the 371-member Punjab Assembly had reposed their confidence in Hamza Shehbaz, the opposition candidate.
Referring to the Iftar parties at the CM office hosted by Parvez Elahi, Ms Bokhari stressed holding such gatherings at state expense will not help Mr Elahi win the poll as Hamza will be elected with a clear majority on Saturday (today) in the one-on-one contest.
Published in Dawn, April 16th, 2022