Elahi suffers shock defeat as Hamza retains Punjab CM position after deputy speaker's contentious ruling
In a shock result, PML-Q's PTI-backed candidate Parvez Elahi lost the Punjab chief minister's election to PML-N's Hamza Shehbaz on Friday, after Punjab Assembly Deputy Speaker Dost Mohammad Mazari ruled that PML-Q members' votes were not counted in light of party head Chaudhry Shujaat Hussain's letter.
According to Mazari, Hamza received 179 votes whereas Elahi garnered 176 votes, but only after 10 votes of Elahi's own party were not counted, which turned the tables in Hamza's favour.
Soon after the contentious ruling was announced, PTI leader Asad Umar tweeted that the party would approach the Supreme Court tonight.
Mazari excludes PML-Q votes citing Hussain's letter
While announcing the result, Mazari read Hussain's letter out loud. "As party head of Pakistan Muslim League, I have issued directions to all my provincial members to cast their votes in favour of Muhammad Hamza Shehbaz Sharif," Mazari quoted Hussain as saying.
"As per this letter, according to the ruling of the Supreme Court, all the 10 votes cast by PML-Q leaders have been rejected," Mazari ruled.
Hafiz Ammar Yasir, Shuja Nawaz, Muhammad Abdullah Warraich, Parvez Elahi, Muhammad Rizwan, Sajjad Sajid Ahmed Khan, Ehsanullah Chaudhry, Muhammad Afzal, Bismah Chaudhry, and Khadija Umar were the 10 members whose votes were not counted.
The deputy speaker's ruling was countered by PTI MPA Raja Basharat, who argued that as per Article 63-A of the Constitution — which explains defecting lawmakers — the direction of vote lies under the parliamentary leader.
Mazari maintained that the law was "clear" and stated that the directives must be issued by the party leader. At this, Basharat, who was holding a copy of the Constitution in his hand, read out loud the Article 63-A(1)(B).
The law states: "If a member of a Parliamentary Party composed of a single political party in a House, votes or abstains from voting in the House contrary to any direction issued by the Parliamentary Party."
Mazari insisted that the matter had been clarified by the Supreme Court.
Basharat countered that the leader of the parliamentary party was Chaudhry Sajid, who he said had passed the directions to the party's MPAs. "We had a meeting of the parliamentary party yesterday and it was decided that votes will be cast in favour of Chaudhry Parvez Elahi.
"Your ruling is eliminating the nature of the candidate itself. Chaudhry Parvez Elahi can't vote for himself," he said.
Mazari said he had spoken to Hussain over the phone himself and the PML-Q leader had confirmed the validity of the letter thrice. "He has given the letter as the party chief."
He said he was simply following SC's orders. "Go and read the SC's verdict on defection."
Subsequently, Mazari proceeded to read out the ruling. "... I hereby disregard and exclude the votes of Chaudhry Parvez Elahi. As a consequence, Hamza Shehbaz Sharif is declared return candidate for the office of chief minister, having received majority votes of members present and voting."
The deputy speaker then proceeded to prorogue the session.
The development of Hussain's letter came a day after PPP co-chairperson Asif Ali Zardari held a meeting with him. However, at the time, Hussain had said there was "no question" of issuing such a letter.
While the reports of Hussain's letter were circulating, Moonis tweeted that a joint parliamentary meeting of PML-Q and PTI had "unanimously agreed" upon Parvez as their candidate for the election.
Addressing these reports, PTI leader Hammad Azhar said that the law was very clear. "It states that members can only follow the instructions of the parliamentary party, not the party leader."
Session began after 3-hour delay
Earlier, the session, originally scheduled to commence at 4pm, began after a delay of almost three hours.
Taking the dais, Mazari said that on April 16, elections for the chief minister of Punjab was held for the first time during which PML-Q leader Chaudhry Parvez Elahi had not received any vote.
"While 197 votes were cast for Hamza Shehbaz, 25 votes were removed after the Supreme Court's order on Article-63A."
Now, he said, Hamza had 172 votes, highlighting that none of the members could clinch 186 votes — the number required to become the leader of the House.
"Hence, another round of voting under Article 130 (4) of the Constitution and rules and procedures of the assembly is being held.
"Voting process will be the same as before. I will ask the secretary to announce the voting procedure," the deputy speaker said.
After the procedure was announced, Mazari asked MPAs supporting Elahi and Hamza to gather on opposite sides. Subsequently, the voting was held.
Qureshi, Gujjar allowed to vote despite PML-N's objection
At the outset of the session, PML-N's Raja Sagheer, who had won Rawalpindi's PP-7 seat during the recently-held Punjab by-elections, was administered his oath.
Separately, a PML-N MPA raised a point of order. He claimed that PTI MPA Zain Qureshi was both a provincial assembly and National Assembly member and couldn't cast his vote.
Here, the deputy speaker ruled that under Article 223(4) of the Constitution, a member ceased to be an MNA after he became an MPA. Subsequently, Mazari allowed Qureshi to cast his vote.
Meanwhile, the ruling party also raised an objection against the vote of PTI MPA Shabbir Gujjar, saying that he had a case pending in the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP).
PTI's Raja Basharat came to Gujjar's rescue and revealed that the ECP had granted him permission to vote. Subsequently, Mazari turned down the objection.
Where do the parties stand?
PTI claims Mazari refused to chair session
Earlier, PTI leader Shafqat Mahmood claimed that Deputy Speaker Dost Muhammad Mazari had "refused to chair" the Punjab Assembly session.
"PTI and Q League have a clear majority otherwise the session would have started," he tweeted, demanding that incumbent CM Hamza Shehbaz should quit.
Dawn.com was able to confirm that PML-N lawmakers had refused to enter the assembly hall and were present in the lobby.
PTI lawmakers had arrived at the Punjab Assembly, flashing the victory sign.
Interestingly, PML-N lawmakers Saba Sadiq and Uzma Qadri arrived at the assembly decked out head-to-toe in personal protective equipment (PPE) as both were Covid-19 positive.
However, they were undeterred by their diagnosis as they arrived at the assembly all suited up and with health officials in tow.
The PML-N's Rana Mashhood, who was speaking to Geo News from a bus on the way to the assembly, claimed that 175 MPAs of the PTI were there at the moment and the PML-N had 180.
'Govt committing contempt of court'
As the delay stretched, PTI leader Fawad Chaudhry had said it was a "violation of the Supreme Court's orders". "We have told our lawyers to prepare for contempt proceedings," he tweeted, adding that in a while, a petition would be filed in the apex court.
Separately, speaking to reporters, PTI leader Babar Awan said the Supreme Court had ordered that the assembly session be conducted at 4pm "today, and not tomorrow". "This is a contempt of court."
He said the PTI had the required numbers, adding that the "imported government" — in the context of Punjab — was set to go home.
Meanwhile, PTI's Fayyazul Hassan Chohan claimed the PML-N was busy in "technical manipulation", which he said was causing the delay in the commencement of the session.
"There is also a rumour that they have prepared a fake letter in the name of Chaudhry Shujaat, which he has not given to them. They attempted to convince him [to send the letter himself] but he categorically refused," Chohan alleged.
LHC bars police from entering assembly
There were some other developments as well. The Lahore High Court barred police from entering the assembly, which was requested by deputy speaker Dost Mohammad Mazari over the violence he endured during the April 16 election.
Justice Muzamil Akhtar Shabbir pronounced the verdict on PTI lawmaker Sibtain Khan's petition, ruling that the can police enter only when the situation goes bad.
Separately, a new provincial police chief was also appointed moments before the session was slated to begin.
The session, which will be chaired by Deputy Speaker Dost Mohammad Mazari, comes a mere three months after incumbent Hamza Shehbaz secured the office on April 16 after garnering 197 votes — including 25 from PTI dissident MPAs — in a gruelling process that was punctuated by delays and violence.
The dissidents' votes, which were instrumental in putting Hamza in the top seat, began a saga that went from their losing their seats to a Supreme Court interpretation of Article 63-A that retroactively gutted their votes, setting the stage for another election for the provincial chief.
So how did it get to this point?
How did all this start?
It started in February, as the vote of no-confidence was taking shape against Imran Khan, the then prime minister.
Eventually, Usman Buzdar, the chief minister at the time, resigned from his seat to make way for Parvez Elahi as the joint PTI-PML-Q candidate.
Come election time, 25 PTI dissidents voted for Hamza. Their were instrumental in helping Hamza over the line; he received a total of 197 votes while 186 votes are required for a simple majority.
Who were the MPAs removed for backing Hamza?
What happened next?
Following Hamza's election, the PTI sent a declaration to Punjab Assembly Speaker Elahi declaring the 25 MPAs as defectors.
Subsequently, Elahi had sent the reference to the ECP, urging it to de-seat these lawmakers for defecting from the PTI by casting their votes in Hamza's favour in violation of party directions.
Most of the 25 dissident MPAs tried to justify their action of voting in favour of Hamza by claiming that they had received no directives from the party. They raised procedural objections and claimed they never received any show-cause notices — a mandatory requirement.
On May 20, the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) de-seated the 25 dissident MPAs, stating that they had defected from the party. Since these lawmakers were no longer members of the House, Hamza lost his majority.
Earlier this month, the Supreme Court ordered the chief minister's re-election to be held on July 22 (today).
Five MPAs for reserved seats were notified by the ECP on July 6, leaving 20 empty seats. By-elections for the 20 seats were held on July 17 (Sunday) in which the PTI routed the PML-N to bag 15 seats while the latter secured only four seats.
Since the by-election results, the government and opposition have flung allegations and counter-allegations at each other.
With additional reporting by Rana Bilal