NOW that the PML-N’s Balighur Rehman has been appointed as the Punjab governor, the opposition PTI and its ally in the province, the PML-Q, are looking to court decisions in their petitions against the election of Hamza Shehbaz and his subsequent oath as the chief minister, administered by the National Assembly speaker after repeated refusal by the then governor.

The PML-Q is actively contesting in courts as well as in the Punjab Assembly to regain power in the province, while the PTI is hoping for a dissolution of the National and provincial assemblies and an announcement of a fresh general election.

On the other hand, the main ruling party in Punjab and the Centre, the PML-N, is walking a tightrope as it will soon confront the mammoth task of getting the next fiscal budget passed from the Punjab Assembly. “The PML-N government will fall if it fails to get the budget passed,” a PML-Q leader claimed. The PML-N has the support of 172 MPAs in the provincial assembly after de-seating of PTI turncoats; it needs 174 votes to get the money bill passed.

Since no lawmaker can now deviate from party line or abstain from voting in the passing of money bill, after the Supreme Court’s verdict on the presidential reference on defection, the PML-Q appears confident that even a vote by Punjab Assembly Deputy Speaker Dost Muhammad Mazari would not be able to help the PML-N get the budget passed, and so would be the case in the run-off election for the chief minister.

As the PML-Q pins hopes on the courts in petitions against Hamza’s election and his oath, former federal minister and PML-Q leader Moonis Elahi told Dawn on Monday: “In case of even one decision in favour of the PTI and PML-Q, the PML-N government will fall flat and Hamza Shehbaz will not be able to take a fresh vote of confidence. The PML-N will have no option but to go for a run-off election,” he maintained.

Read more: Parvez Elahi refuses to take over as acting Punjab governor

The Lahore High Court chief justice is hearing a PTI and PML-Q petition against the chief minister’s election, while a five-member bench will be holding day-to-day hearings on a petition against Hamza’s oath-taking as the CM from Tuesday (today).

Moonis was also confident the PML-N would not be able to dislodge his father, PA Speaker Chaudhry Parvez Elahi, as it required 186 votes for the move, and that could only be possible if the ruling party clinched the maximum seats in the by-elections on 20 of the 25 seats vacated by the PTI dissidents.

Having secured his position as the speaker – for now, Parvez Elahi feels at ease to keep delaying the assembly session till the decisions by Lahore High Court. Currently, the session is scheduled for June 6.

Although the PTI has eventually decided to contest the by-polls on 20 seats vacated by its dissidents (scheduled for July 17), sources said the party only made up its mind a couple of days ago. The PTI leadership had initially announced a boycott of the polls, saying it did not believe in the assemblies, but did an about-turn when it was suggested that its ally, the PML-Q, should be asked to contest the elections. The PTI has sought applications from potential candidates till June 1.

Qureshi, Elahi chart future course

Meanwhile, PTI vice chairman Shah Mehmood Qureshi sat down with PA Speaker Elahi at the latter’s residence in Lahore and discussed the current political situation as well as the court cases, and resolved that both allies should continue working together against the PML-N government.

Speaking to the media after the meeting, Mr Elahi said the PTI should immediately announce its candidates for the by-elections, adding his party would fully support Imran Khan in bringing the dissidents to justice.

He further taunted that Hamza Shehbaz’s so-called election and oath as the chief minister were neither valid constitutionally nor legally. “Hamza is ruling only with the support of the police and chief secretary,” he declared.

The speaker alleged that Hamza had maltreated women in the long march. He also asserted that the presence of policemen on the assembly floor during the chief minister’s election on April 16 was not a trivial matter. “Policemen will be summoned in accordance with the Assembly Act and sacked with four-month imprisonment,” Mr Elahi stressed.

He further said the Commonwealth and UN secretaries had also condemned the police brutality in the assembly and demanded a report from the assembly secretary.

Former foreign minister Qureshi said fresh elections were the only solution to get the country out of the crises, in which the government was an obstacle. At present, every institution should think of Pakistan’s interests, he suggested.

Published in Dawn, May 31st, 2022

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