LAHORE: The Business Advisory Committee of the Punjab Assembly could not meet here on Tuesday to plan the chief minister’s election owing to a boycott by treasury representatives, while the opposition is mulling moving the Supreme Court against this alleged violation of its orders by the government.

The ruling coalition in Punjab boycotted the sitting as it claims the apex court decision of July 1 on the chief minister’s election mandated the deputy speaker to convene assembly sittings, while the opposition interprets the verdict as allowing Speaker Chaudhry Parvez Elahi to retain his office and conduct house proceedings despite being one of the candidates for the CM’s poll.

The part of the Supreme Court’s Friday verdict that the two sides interpret differently stated, “The session in which such poll takes place will be chaired by the Deputy Speaker of the Assembly. The Speaker/Deputy Speaker shall issue a formal notification convening the session in this regard after fulfilling all legal and procedural formalities within one week from today.”

Punjab Assembly Speaker Elahi had called the committee’s meeting for deciding a code of conduct for the chief minister’s election to be held on July 22 as per the SC order.

Opposition may move court for contempt over govt’s absence

Ruling PML-N MPA Khalil Tahir Sindhu, who was among the invitees to the meeting, said they boycotted the sitting because it was “illegal and in violation of the apex court verdict”, which had assigned the task (to conduct assembly business) to Deputy Speaker Dost Mohammad Mazari. Mr Mazari was not even invited to the sitting, he claimed.

However, a notification issued by the Punjab Assembly Secretariat on Monday evening said Mr Mazari, provincial ministers Syed Hassan Murtaza, Sardar Awais Leghari and Malik Ahmad Khan, opposition leader Sibtain Khan, Basharat Raja, Chaudhry Zaheer, PTI parliamentary leader Mahmoodur Rashid, and PML-N MPAs Malik Nadeem Kamran and Mr Sindhu had been invited to the meeting.

Mr Murtaza, who is also the PPP parliamentary leader, said he boycotted the advisory committee as he did not consider Mr Elahi the custodian of the house due to the speaker’s conduct since April.

“Parvez Elahi may be the speaker of the assembly in legal terms but I don’t think he is a true custodian of the house, particularly seeing his conduct during the April 16 polls for the chief minister’s office.”

Former Punjab law minister and PTI MPA Raja Basharat said during the assembly proceedings they had accepted Hamza Shehbaz as the chief minister till July 22, and claimed the powers of the speaker, who is up against Hamza for the CM’s office, would also rest with Mr Elahi till the poll.

He said they might move the court against the government for not joining the committee meeting in violation of the apex court verdict.

Speaker Elahi told the house that a legal team would soon move the court over the issue, and suggested opposition leader Sibtain Khan also dispatch a petition to the local office of the election commission over alleged violations of the code of conduct for the upcoming by-polls.

Meanwhile, as per an assembly secretariat notification, the speaker summoned a sitting of the 40th session of the assembly at 4pm on July 22 to elect a chief minister.

Interestingly, in a development late on Tuesday evening, the deputy speaker also issued a separate notification convening the assembly sitting on July 22. The notification issued by Acting Secretary Amer Habib stated Mr Mazari took the step in light of the Lahore High Court’s order of June 30 and Supreme Court’s ruling of July 1 for holding a second poll for election of the chief minister.

These developments are reminiscent of what happened in June when Speaker Elahi had not allowed the Punjab government to present the provincial budget, forcing it to prorogue the session through an ordinance issued by the governor, and calling a fresh session in another building.

The speaker then also summoned a fresh session on the requisition of the opposition PTI. Proceedings of both sessions were held parallel.

Published in Dawn, July 6th, 2022

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