• Imran to announce party’s future course of action at protest today
• Fawad claims Zardari offered PTI women MPAs Rs50m each to abstain from voting
• As per agreement with PTI, PML-Q to get 30 PA, 15 NA seats

LAHORE: The Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI) has announced that it will challenge any “unconstitutional” move of de-notifying Punjab Chief Minister Chaudhry Parvez Elahi, and asked its leadership, parliamentarians and party workers to reach the Governor House at 5pm on Thursday (today) to ‘block’ the governor from taking any such action.

PTI Chairman Imran Khan will address the protesters through video link and announce the party’s next line of action in the face of the provincial opposition’s moves to save the Punjab Assembly.

Earlier on Wednesday, Governor Balighur Rehman had declared Punjab Assembly Speaker Sibtain Khan’s ruling regarding CM Elahi’s vote of confidence “unconstitutional” and “illegal”.

On Tuesday, the speaker had termed the governor’s orders — to the CM to obtain a vote of confidence from the provincial assembly by 4pm on Wednesday — as “illegal, against the provisions of the Constitution and thus stand disposed of”, and issued a ruling in this regard.

The PTI leadership on Wednesday maintained the speaker had ruled that the assembly was in session and until the session was prorogued, the governor could not summon a fresh session, citing a 1997 ruling by the Lahore High Court. They said the court had ruled that “not less than 10 clear days” must be granted to the chief minister to obtain a vote of confidence.

PTI Central Punjab General Secretary Hammad Azhar gave a call to PTI leaders, lawmakers and party workers and supporters to reach outside the Governor House at 5pm on Thursday (today).

“The masses can no longer remain silent spectators while an unconstitutional game is being played,” he remarked.

Meanwhile, the federal government has sought deployment of Rangers to beef up security of the Governor House “till further orders under sections 7(b) and 10 of the Pakistan Rangers Ordinance, 1959 and Section 4(3)(i) of Anti-Terrorism Act 1997”.

“The Pakistan Rangers (Punjab) is requested to immediate necessary action with regard to beefing up the security at the Governor’s House, Lahore, in coordination with the office of the governor,” said the Interior Ministry.

PTI senior leader Fawad Chaudhry told the media outside party chief Imran Khan’s Zaman Park residence that the Pakistan Democratic Movement (PDM) parties were ‘scared of’ holding general elections, adding they would be violating the Constitution’s Article 109 by asking the chief minister to take a vote of confidence immediately.

He said the governor should give 10 clear days for the vote or challenge the Punjab Assembly speaker’s ruling in court.

He further said the PTI had called its parliamentary party meeting on Thursday (today) and stressed its 177 as well as the PML-Q’s 10 MPAs were available to foil a no-confidence motion submitted by the PML-N and the PPP separately against the chief minister as well as the Punjab Assembly speaker and deputy speaker.

Mr Chaudhry also claimed that the party’s women MPAs had told Mr Khan that they were receiving offers from former president Asif Zardari to abstain from voting for Rs50 million each.

“The people of Sindh should know that Asif Zardari is spending their welfare money to buy loyalties of PTI MPAs,” he said.

Claiming that some other MPAs had also received threatening calls to abstain from voting, he demanded the superior courts take notice and identify those who were trying to terrify the party legislators.

“As soon as the vote of no-confidence fails, the Punjab Assembly will be dissolved and the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Assembly will follow suit,” he declared.

On the other hand, a three-member committee of the PTI held a meeting with CM Elahi and his party members and discussed seat adjustment prospects in detail.

As part of a formula, sources said, the PTI agreed to offer 30 Punjab Assembly and 15 National Assembly seats to the PML-Q. The party of the Chaudhrys had sought seats in the newly created Gujrat division – their hometown -- that included Gujrat, Mandi Bahauddin, Wazirabad and Hafizabad districts, some parts of south Punjab as well as Sialkot.

PTI leader Shafqat Mahmood later confirmed that both the allied parties had mutually agreed over giving 30 Punjab and 15 National Assembly seats to Mr Elahi’s party.

Meanwhile, the PML-Q held its parliamentary party meeting, chaired by CM Elahi and parliamentary leader Sajid Bhatti, and discussed the current political situation and decided their future course of action.

The chief minister has also called the provincial cabinet’s seventh meeting at his office on Thursday (today) at 1:30pm with 21 items on the agenda.

Soon afterwards, PML-Q MNA Hussain Elahi tweeted that all 10 PML-Q MPAs had announced complete support for PTI chief Imran Khan and Chief Minister Parvez Elahi in the meeting.

Responding to the PDM government’s claim that it had won the loyalties of six PML-Q MPAs, Mr Hussain asserted that the federal ruling coalition would not be able to fool anyone with its propaganda, and commented: “They (PDM) talk about six MPAs when they can’t even break one.”

A PML-Q spokesman said the parliamentary party had delegated complete authority of making all the decisions to CM Elahi and resolved to vote in favour of the CM, speaker and deputy speaker when a vote of no-confidence was taken up in the house.

Mr Elahi also asserted that the PML-Q would continue standing by Imran Khan and that his party was united and would remain so to bulldoze any propaganda or rumours being spread by the PDM government in the Centre.

Earlier in the day, as Interior Minister Rana Sanaullah had claimed he would seal the Chief Minister House if Mr Elahi didn’t take a vote of confidence, the CM’s son, Moonis, said he had “reached 8-Club CM House and waiting for you”. A few hours later, he tweeted: “Rana sb am bored now. Heading home but pls do let me know when you plan to come.”

Published in Dawn, December 22nd, 2022

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