The political heart of Pakistan, Punjab, has been impaired by a constitutional controversy since March this year as the tug of war for the province’s chief executive persists between the PTI and PML-N.
However, there is one man who has played a central role in this time — Sardar Dost Mohammad Mazari, the deputy speaker of the Punjab Assembly (PA).
So what is Mazari’s political trajectory and why are all the spotlights on him again?
The 42-year-old agriculturist was born and raised in Karachi and comes from a family of politicians. His grandfather, Mir Balk Sher Mazari, was a member of the National Assembly and served as the caretaker prime minister during 1993.
The younger Mazari entered politics with a National Assembly seat on a PPP ticket in 2008. In the years that followed, he was appointed the parliamentary secretary for water and power and the minister for state for communications.
But in 2013, the deputy speaker parted ways with the party and in 2015 joined PTI.
Mazari was quick to gain his party chief’s trust and in 2018 he was nominated as PTI’s candidate for PA deputy speaker. He was later successfully appointed.
So, where did things go wrong? It started with the no-confidence movement against Imran and escalated on March 28 when former Punjab chief minister Usman Buzdar resigned following the beginning of a vicious ‘number game’ in the province.
To save his collapsing government, the former prime minister had chosen PML-Q’s Chaudhry Parvez Elahi over Buzdar, who resigned to make way for him. Ultimately, the no-trust move was successful and Punjab’s crown was up for grabs.
However, things seemed to be in favour of the PML-N after incumbent Chief Minister Hamza Shehbaz managed to gain the support of 25 PTI assembly members.
On April 2, when a hurried session of the Punjab Assembly was called, the event was marred by an altercation between women MPAs from both sides of the aisles. Hence, the sitting, which was chaired by Mazari in place of Elahi, was adjourned till April 7.
But on April 6, a day before the session was to be called, another misunderstanding erupted as Mazari, going against his party line, said that the session would be held as per schedule, while Elahi claimed that it had been put off till April 16.
The deputy speaker had said that he would play his constitutional role in the chief minister’s election.
However, the next day, opposition members reaching the assembly were sent back home, while the doors of the House were locked.
Subsequently, Elahi used his authority as the Punjab Assembly speaker and ordered the “withdrawal of powers delegated to the deputy speaker in terms of Rule 25 of the Rules ibid with immediate effect”.
Later, Mazari’s party leader and PML-Q MPAs submitted a no-confidence motion against him, seeking his removal.
PTI had claimed that Mazari had accepted a “good offer” from the PML-N and agreed to ditch his party at the critical juncture.
To prevent further drama, PML-N’s Hamza took the matter to court where the chief justice of the Lahore High Court restored Mazari’s position and ordered him to chair the session on April 16.
During this time, the deputy speaker had alleged that he was being harassed by the Assembly Secretariat. He said that the high-ups suspended and transferred his personal secretary and changed other staff without getting his consent.
Meanwhile, on April 16 during the election, Mazari was allegedly attacked by PTI MPAs. As soon as he had entered the assembly, members of the then treasury benches threw lotas at him and tried to encircle him, while one of the MPAs pulled his hair and others were seen hitting him.
Mazari was immediately shifted to his chamber by assembly guards.
However, after an hours-long delay, the deputy speaker, with the protection of police and anti-riot force, conducted the elections in which Hamza emerged victorious.
An inquiry into Mazari’s attack was subsequently initiated in which 14 MPAs, Elahi, and former secretary of the assembly Mohammad Khan Bhatti were identified as prime suspects.
The 14 MPAs included Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf leaders Umar Tanveer, Wasiq Qayyum Abbasi, Malik Taimoor Masood, Khayyal Ahmad Kastro, Mohammad Waris Aziz, Umar Farooq, Shahbaz Ahmad, Malik Nadeem Abbas, Mahinder Pall Singh, Mohammad Rizwan, Mohammad Nadeem Qureshi, Mohammad Ali Raza Khan Khakwani, Ejaz Khan and Shujahat Nawaz of the PML-Q.
“These suspects thrashed Mr Mazari and beat up him using kicks and fists in a bid to kill him,” read the official document.
Following these events, the relationship of Mazari and PTI appeared to have reached a point of no return.
It is also pertinent to mention here that the deputy speaker is still a member of the PTI. During this time, simultaneous assembly sessions were held, the ones at the Punjab Assembly were chaired by Elahi, and the ones at the Aiwan-i-Iqbal were chaired by Mazari.
On June 30, Elahi had even gone on to say that there was no expectation of justice from Mazari as Dost Mazari was attending PML-N meetings and had shown his partiality.
He had said the deputy speaker had conducted an illegal election for the chief minister’s office and that his statements in favour of the PML-N “matched his actions”.
However, much to Elahi’s displeasure, when the Supreme Court had ordered the run-off elections of the Punjab chief minister, it was Mazari who once again was responsible for conducting the Punjab Assembly session.
And the deputy speaker didn’t fail to disappoint the PML-Q leader, who was confident of triumph.
During the second round of CM elections on July 22, Mazari rejected all 10 votes cast by the PML-Q on the pretext that they had violated the orders of their party chief, Chaudhry Shujaat Hussain, citing a letter he received from the patriarch which said he was asking his party lawmakers to back Hamza.
After counting the polled votes, the deputy speaker announced that Elahi bagged 186 votes, while Hamza could get 179 votes. However, he refrained from declaring Elahi the chief minister.
Instead, he indicated that as party chief, Chaudhry Shujaat Hussain’s instructions to PML-Q members to vote for Hamza instead of Elahi held greater sway.
The deputy speaker then announced that Hamza 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.
Mazari’s ruling was immediately declared “bogus and false” by the PTI and PML-Q, who later took the matter to the top court.