Punjab Governor Balighur Rehman on Saturday administered the oath to newly re-elected Chief Minister Hamza Shehbaz after a day of drama that ended with Chaudhry Parvez Elahi's shock defeat in the contest for the slot as provincial assembly Deputy Speaker Dost Mazari decided not to count the votes of PML-Q lawmakers.
Hamza, clad in a black sherwani, was administered the oath at a ceremony held at the Governor House in Punjab.
In the television footage of the ceremony, slogans of "Aik Zardari Sab Pe Bhaari" (one Zardari outweighs them all) were heard immediately after Hamza took the oath.
Later, Hamza offered thanks to God for giving his party success "once again". He was also grateful to Asif Zardari and Chaudhry Shujaat Hussain and coalition partners "who have played their key role for the strengthening of democracy in the country".
It is the second time that Hamza beat Elahi in the contest for the Punjab CM. The last time he had secured victory on April 16, his oath-taking had been delayed for days with then-governor, Omer Sarfraz Cheema, refusing to administer the oath to him. Eventually, National Assembly Speaker Raja Pervaiz Ashraf administered the oath to him on April 30, following the Lahore High Court's directives.
The run-off election for the province's top office was held yesterday, in line with the Supreme Court's directives.
The session, which began hours after its scheduled time, saw Hamza being re-elected as the chief minister of Punjab by three votes after Deputy Speaker Mazari rejected all 10 votes cast by the PML-Q on the pretext that they had violated the orders of their party chief.
After counting the polled votes, the deputy speaker had announced that Elahi bagged 186 votes, while Hamza could get just 179 votes. However, he had refrained from declaring Elahi the chief minister.
Instead, he had indicated that as party chief, Chaudhry Shujaat Hussain's instruction to PML-Q members to vote for Hamza instead of 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, he had said he personally phoned 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 ruling he referred to was issued on a presidential reference seeking the SC's opinion on Article 63-A — which pertains to the disqualification of lawmakers on grounds of defection — and said the votes of lawmakers defecting from the party were not to be counted.
The deputy speaker had subsequently announced that Hamza had won the election of the chief minister, since the 10 deducted votes reduced Elahi’s tally to 176, while Hamza remained on top with 179.
The ruling was severely criticised by Elahi, his supporters and the PTI.
An outraged Elahi had 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 Raja had 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, had 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.
Parvez Elahi has challenged Hamza's re-election in the Supreme Court and the PTI's Fawad Chaudhry has said his party may also approach the apex court on the matter,
Prior to the provincial assembly session for Hamza's election, PPP co-chairperson Asif Ali Zardari had held two back-to-back meetings with Shujaat at the latter’s residence, which continued well after midnight. When he did finally leave, Zardari left Shujaat’s residence while waving the victory sign.
However, at the time, Shujaat had said there was "no question" of issuing a letter stating that PML-Q members' votes in favour of Elahi were not to be counted.
Referring to these meetings, a Dawn editorial on Saturday said: "The ruling coalition might be thankful for Zardari’s late-night machinations, but they have done little to solve the multiple crises Pakistan is mired in. In fact, this episode will open another unneeded chapter for judicial intervention in the political domain."
How did all this start?
Events leading to Hamza's re-election started in February, as the vote of no-confidence was taking shape against Imran Khan, the then prime minister.
The PTI was trying to prevent the on-the-fence PML-Q from voting with the opposition, which was courting it.
Eventually, Usman Buzdar, the chief minister at the time, resigned from his seat to make way for 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.
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 Election Commission of Pakistan (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 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.