• Parvez Elahi bags 186 votes, Hamza 179 • Deputy speaker rejects 10 PML-Q votes over ‘violation’ of party chief’s order • Outraged Elahi questions Dost Mazari’s authority to reject polled votes, including candidate’s own • Jubilations in PML-N camp as Zardari ‘wins’ the day • PTI, ‘Q’ leaders throw ‘lotas’, chant slogans outside Shujaat’s residence
LAHORE: The ruling coalition in Punjab sprang its own ‘surprise’ on Friday when, against all odds, Hamza Shehbaz was re-elected chief minister of Punjab by three votes after Deputy Speaker Dost Muhammad Mazari rejected all 10 votes cast by the PML-Q on the pretext that they had violated the orders of their party chief.
The run-off election for the post of Punjab chief minister was held in the Punjab Assembly on Friday, in line with the instructions of the Supreme Court of Pakistan.
After counting the polled votes, the deputy speaker announced that Parvez Elahi bagged 186 votes, while Hamza Shehbaz could get 179 votes. However, he refrained from declaring Elahi the chief minister.
Instead, he indicated that as party chief, Chaudhry Shujaat Hussain’s instruction to PML-Q members to vote for Hamza Shehbaz instead of Parvez Elahi held greater sway.
Drawing the attention of the house to a letter he received from the Chaudhry clan’s patriarch, said to contain directions for all 10 party MPAs (including the candidate himself) to vote for PML-N candidate Hamza Shehbaz, he said he had personally phoned Mr Shujaat to verify the contents of the message. “I called Shujaat Hussain myself and asked whether he had written the letter regarding instructions to party MPAs, and he confirmed it thrice,” Mazari said.
In light of this conversation, he declared: “I disregard all 10 votes polled by PML-Q MPAs as they violated the party president’s instructions, in line with the ruling of the Supreme Court”.
The deputy speaker then announced that Hamza Shehbaz had won the election of chief minister, since the 10 deducted votes reduced Elahi’s tally to 176, while Hamza remained on top with 179.
An outraged Elahi asked how the deputy speaker could reject the vote of the candidate himself, while former law minister Basharat Raja tried to mount a legal defence, arguing that it was not the party chief’s prerogative, rather that of the parliamentary party leader, to issue the party line.
When Mr Raja told the deputy speaker that he was “doing everything wrong”, Mazari asked him to challenge his decision.
To substantiate this claim, former federal minister Moonis Elahi, who is Parvez Elahi’s son, shared on Twitter a letter issued by parliamentary leader Sajid Ahmad Khan to all 10 MPAs directing them to vote for his father.
“Yesterday, PML-Q parliamentary party chaired by parliamentary party leader Sajid Ahmad Khan in Punjab Assembly held its meeting and it was unanimously decided that Parvez Elahi is the CM candidate,” Moonis Elahi tweeted.
The face of this most crucial election immediately changed following PPP leader Asif Ali Zardari’s two back-to-back meetings with Chaudhry Shujaat Hussain at the latter’s residence, which continued well after midnight. When he did finally leave, Mr Zardari left Shujaat Hussain’s residence while waving the victory sign.
The PML-Q sensed a debacle brewing, as Geo News’ Hamid Mir quoted Moonis Elahi as saying that Chaudhry Shujaat had confirmed to him that he had written a letter to the deputy speaker and that he could not support Parvez Elahi as “Imran Khan’s candidate”.
All the MPAs in the house and the media in the gallery had sensed something brewing when a heavy contingent of security personnel, led by the sergeant-at-arms and consisting of some two dozens plainclothes men, formed a security wall around the deputy speaker before he announced the election results.
As Mazari prorogued the 40th session, PML-N MPAs broke into celebration and lifted Hamza on their shoulders, chanting slogans glorifying the ‘sher’ and, of course, Mr Zardari.
After the final results were announced, PTI and PML-Q descended upon Chaudhry Shujaat’s residence, throwing ‘lotas’ and chanting slogans.
Later, MNA Hussain Elahi tweeted: “If Zardari and Ch Shujaat want a fight, it is a fight we will give! We stood with Imran Khan and Pakistan, In Sha Allah will keep standing strong!”.
Later, Parvez Elahi chaired another joint meeting of the parliamentary parties of the PTI and PML-Q, where he said that their numbers were complete, but the deputy speaker showed partiality by undermining the Constitution and the law.
PTI leader Shah Mehmood Qureshi said that Mr Elahi had won constitutionally, morally and politically, adding that all 186 MPAs would approach the Supreme Court to get an over-arching decision.
Dr Babar Awan was more confident about Mr Elahi’s chances, saying that while he could not take oath on Friday, he would do so in the next two to four days.
Published in Dawn, July 23rd, 2022