Hamza faces immediate threat to office: experts

Published May 1, 2022
PML-N's Hamza Shehbaz is sworn in as the Punjab chief minister on Saturday. — Photo courtesy: Twitter
PML-N's Hamza Shehbaz is sworn in as the Punjab chief minister on Saturday. — Photo courtesy: Twitter

LAHORE: As the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) takes up on May 6 the case of PTI dissident lawmakers who had voted for Hamza Shehbaz during the election for chief minister, law experts say Punjab’s new chief executive will have to prove he enjoys majority in the house once these MPAs are declared de-seated later this month.

The PTI and its ally Pakistan Muslim League-Q are confident that Hamza Sharif, who was sworn in on Saturday, will be sent packing once the case of 26 PTI defectors is decided.

Mubeenuddin Qazi, a Supreme Court lawyer, told Dawn that once the ECP de-seated the defecting MPAs under Article 63-A, the new chief minister would lose the majority in the house.

“In this scenario, the chief minister may be asked by the governor to seek a vote of confidence, or a no-trust motion can be tabled against him,” he said.

Since Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif had already advised President Arif Alvi to remove Governor Omar Sarfaraz Cheema, it is likely that when the ECP’s decision on de-seating the defectors will come later this month, Mr Cheema would have been replaced (probably by PPP’s Makhdoom Ahmad Mahmood).

“The new governor may not ask Hamza for a vote of confidence [after he would have lost support of 26 members] and the PTI-led opposition would have the option to go for a no-confidence motion against him,” a PML-N insider told Dawn.

In the 371-member Punjab Assembly, the PTI has 183 lawmakers, PML-Q 10, PML-N 165, PPP seven, five independents and one belonging to the Rah-i-Haq Party (RHP).

A candidate needs 186 votes to become chief minister. Hamza bagged 197 votes with the help of seven PPP, three independents, one RHP man and 26 dissident MPAs of PTI’s Jehangir Tareen, Aleem Khan and Khokhar groups. Four ‘rebel’ PML-N MPAs had not voted for Hamza.

De-seating of 26 defectors means Hamza will be left with the support of 171.

“To stay as chief minister after losing 26 seats, Hamza will be required to prove simple majority. On the other hand, with PTI’s 157, PML-Q 10 and four PML-N dissident MPAs, and five extra reserved and women seats the PTI will get after losing 26 dissidents, its (PTI-PMLQ) candidate Chaudhry Parvez Elahi will have the simple majority to secure victory in the run-off election,” he said. The defectors, he added, would have an option of challenging the ECP decision in the Supreme Court thus leaving the matter to linger for another month or so.

He said the dissolution of the Punjab Assembly would also be an option after the Punjab government led by PML-N failed to find some other way to extend its rule in the wake of deseating of 26 PTI’s MPAs.

Punjab Assembly Speaker Parvez Elahi over a week ago had filed a reference in the ECP for the disqualification of 26 MPAs for committing defection during the election of chief minister.

The PTI has criticised the ECP for delaying the process for the disqualification of dissident MPAs. The ECP said it would take at least 30 days to decide the reference sent by a party.

Former law minister Raja Basharat of PTI said the ECP had issued notice to the 26 “turncoats” for May 6. “Hamza will lose the majority on May 6 after the ECP deseated the 26 PTI defectors. We have now 174 votes in the Punjab Assembly,” he said and asked the PML-N to stop its “fake narrative of give respect to vote”.

Meanwhile, in a video statement on Saturday, former interior minister Sheikh Rashid Ahmed, while noting that Hamza Shehbaz, had also spoken against him said: “I want to tell Hamza Shehbaz that a game is being played and he too has been trapped.”

Sheikh Rashid regretted that both Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif and his son Hamza are soon to be indicted by courts in cases against them.

Hamza and father PM Shehbaz are facing a money laundering case in which they are on pre-arrest bail till May 14.

Published in Dawn, May 1st, 2022

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