• PA session lasts nine minutes in absence of treasury members
• Assembly official Rai Mumtaz arrested before sitting
• MPAs complain they were not allowed to enter assembly before 1.30pm
LAHORE: In a shocking move for the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz, Punjab Assembly Speaker Parvez Elahi managed to survive a no-confidence motion on Sunday afternoon by getting it disposed of even before the mover could enter the house, compelling the ruling party to resubmit another no-trust motion against him in the evening.
The nine-minute session, convened at a short notice of less than 24 hours, was put off without taking up an equally important agenda item: no-confidence motion against Deputy Speaker Sardar Dost Mohammad Mazari.
On Saturday afternoon, Speaker Elahi had rescheduled the PA session from May 30 to May 22, but its two-point agenda was issued only on Sunday morning, thus allowing minimum time to the ruling PML-N and individual MPAs to ensure their presence in the assembly chamber.
Apparently as a counter strategy, the PML-N government attempted to get senior assembly officers, including secretary Mohammad Khan Bhatti, DG parliamentary affairs Inayatullah Lak and special secretary Rai Mumtaz, arrested, as police conducted raids at their residences in the early hours of Sunday morning. Except Mr Mumtaz, the officials evaded the attempt. On Saturday evening, PML-N lawmaker Ashraf Rasul lodged an FIR against the three officials at Shahdara police station for allegedly attacking and threatening him.
A heavy police contingent cordoned off the assembly building and blocked vehicular access to it by laying barbed wires on all routes leading to it on Sunday morning. Even legislators have to walk on foot for a couple of hundred yards to reach the assembly building only to find its entry gates were shut from inside by the assembly staff.
MPAs both from the treasury benches (PML-N and PPP) and opposition (PTI and PML-Q) later blamed each other for the mayhem, as they said they were not allowed to enter the assembly before 1.30pm, an hour behind the scheduled start of the session.
Proceedings of the session began at 2.07pm with MPA Waseem Badozai, a member of the panel of chairman, in the chair because neither the speaker nor the deputy speaker could legally preside over it for no-trust motions were to be taken up against both of them.
Immediately after recitation of the Quran and Na’at when not more than 26 MPAs, all belonging to opposition parties, were in attendance, MPA Badozai invited PML-N’s Samiullah Khan, the mover, to table the no-confidence motion. However, as neither the mover nor any other member of the treasury benches was present, the motion was disposed of.
Interestingly, the PTI-PML-Q coalition had been claiming that no-trust motion against Mr Mazari should be taken up before the other one, as it had been submitted first. Despite being on the agenda for the day, the no-trust motion against the deputy speaker was not taken up. The proceedings lasted nine minutes.
Soon after the disposal of the motion against the speaker, the chair put off the session for June 6, while Samiullah Khan along with other PML-N legislators was entering the assembly hall.
Mr Khan claimed they had been stopped at the entrance so that he could not turn up in time to move the no-trust motion. The PML-N re-submitted the no-confidence motion against Mr Elahi on Sunday evening.
However, rumours have it that PPP co-chairperson Asif Ali Zardari has struck a deal with Mr Elahi, who was a joint candidate of the PTI and PML-Q in the election for chief minister against Hamza Shehbaz, that he would not be removed as the speaker and in return Mr Elahi too would ‘soften’ his policy towards the ruling coalition.
Frequent changes in session schedule
The 40th session of the house had earlier been convened for April 28 but the speaker put it off minutes before the start of the proceedings for May 16 without assigning any reason. On May 13, his office issued another notification postponing the session for May 30. However, on May 21, Mr Elahi used his powers to call the session at a short notice on May 22.
The PML-N has been claiming that by repeatedly postponing the session, Mr Elahi is making abortive attempts to avert holding of voting on a no-confidence motion against him filed on April 8. As the voting must be held within seven days under the law, the constitutional deadline for voting on the no-trust motion passed on April 14.
Also, a constitutional crisis involving the election of the chief minister on April 16 and filing of a no-trust motion against deputy speaker Sardar Dost Mohammad Mazari by the PTI and Mr Elahi’s PML-Q on April 7 kept the issue on back burner.
Published in Dawn, May 23rd, 2022