Chief Minister Chaudhry Parvez Elahi, in a typically chaotic session held during early hours of Thursday, managed to get a vote of confidence from the Punjab Assembly after the opposition walked out claiming that the vote was “bulldozed” and “unconstitutional”.
Speaker Sibtain Khan, who presided the session, said that Elahi had received 186 votes — exactly the number required to retain his position and one less than 187 that PTI leaders had claimed to have prior to voting.
Ahead of the voting, government and opposition lawmakers had renewed hostilities around the speaker’s dais and engaged each other in angry jostling. Shortly after, the opposition MPAs staged a boycott of the session and walked out.
Outside the Punjab Assembly, Interior Minister Rana Sanaullah labelled the session’s proceedings “against the rules and Constitution”, and accused the speaker of “bulldozing” the vote of confidence.
Sanaullah and another PML-N leader Ata Tarar said that the vote of confidence will be challenged in the court.
Earlier, PTI Vice President Fawad Chaudhry said that the PTI-PML-Q coalition had the support of 187 MPAs — a claim reiterated by Mian Mahmoodur Rashid.
The PA session, which began around 5pm on Wednesday, witnessed chaos for a third day running as the opposition reiterated its demand for Elahi to seek the confidence vote.
The session began hours after the Lahore High Court (LHC) extended the “interim relief” of reinstating Elahi as chief minister till Jan 12, adding that the chief minister couldn’t dissolve assembly until 9am tomorrow.
Meanwhile, Elahi — who had met with PTI chief Imran Khan earlier in the day — arrived at the PA shortly after 10pm.
Speaking on ARY News from the assembly hall, Fawad said: “The numbers for the confidence vote are complete.”
He said that the PTI-PML-Q alliance was currently waiting for some lawmakers who were en route to the PA from various other cities in the province. He said that the confidence vote would be held as soon as they arrived.
Fawad also said that from a legal perspective, the vote could be held at any time since the session was still under way. He commended lawmakers for rejecting bribes offered to switch their loyalties.
When asked what about the plan of action if the confidence vote was held, Fawad said the party would then withdraw the petition from the high court and forward the summaries for dissolving the Punjab and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa assemblies by tomorrow morning.
Questioned about his thoughts on the possibility of the confidence vote not being held, Fawad said: “God willing we will take it. We are only waiting for two MPAs [to arrive].”
Meanwhile, Fawad also took to Twitter to say that the “number of 187 is complete”.
In another tweet, he said that according to the directives issued by the LHC, Elahi could seek a vote of confidence “at any time”.
“For weeks the PML-N was demanding we show 186 lawmakers. Now when the time has come to show the numbers, why are you running?”
However, PA Deputy Speaker Wasiq Qayyum told ARY News that he did not see the confidence vote taking place tonight. “There’s a long process […] our agenda was to show our complete numbers and we have done that.”
He said the process for the vote would “happen tomorrow after taking the date from the court”. “A vote of confidence is taken when it comes on the agenda, not without that,” the deputy speaker added.
Asked whether the session would be adjourned shortly after the lunch break was up, he replied: “Definitely”.
PA echoes with opposition’s demand for trust vote
Earlier today, the PA session chorused for the third day with the opposition’s demands for the chief minister to take a vote of confidence. The session began after a delay of almost two hours with Punjab Assembly Speaker Sibtain Khan presiding over it.
Addressing the session, PPP MPA Syed Usman Mehmood said that the “minority government” was requested to take a confidence vote and then a period for questions could be held as well.
PML-N lawmaker Raheela Khadim Hussain refused to speak during the question and answers session and instead requested that the confidence vote be taken first.
The PA speaker said that the government would take a confidence vote but first the Lahore High Court (LHC) should be allowed to make the final decision on the matter tomorrow.
He said the government could not remain in power if it did not take a confidence vote and told the opposition to bring a no-confidence motion to settle the matter.
Meanwhile, PTI MPA Sardar Shahabuddin Khan lashed out at the opposition for causing a ruckus and said it had nothing to do with assembly proceedings. The PA speaker concurred and said that the lawmakers who do not allow the assembly business to continue should be suspended.
As the opposition lawmakers chanted slogans and came face-to-face with government MPAs, the PA speaker urged them to return to their seats, and warned them of action against them.
At one point, Punjab Parliamentary Affairs Minister Basharat Raja also attempted to placate the opposition members, who continued with their sloganeering to force the chief minister into taking a confidence vote.
Meanwhile, Interior Minister Rana Sanaullah said that contrary to the claims made by the PTI, Elahi did not have the support of 186 lawmakers.
Speaking to the media in Lahore prior to the start of the assembly session, he asserted that six to seven PTI MPAs were abroad and the federal government had their travel records to prove it.
Speaking alongside him, Special Assistant to Prime Minister Ata Tarar said that 12 lawmakers from the PTI-PML-Q coalition were not present in Lahore, adding that he had the data and the evidence to back his claim.
Tarar warned the PTI-PML-Q coalition from staging an act similar to that “staged by Qasim Suri in the National Assembly”.
Imran all praise for govt coalition
Meanwhile, PTI Chairman Imran Khan was all praise for PTI-PML-Q MPAs in a video address to a parliamentary party session.
He praised them and CM Elahi for continuing to support the PTI despite the pressure being exerted on them to switch sides. Imran said that PTI MPAs from Muzaffargarh and Gujrat had informed him about attempts to threaten and bribe them to join the PML-N.
The PTI chief alleged that PPP co-chairman Asif Ali Zardari was behind the attempts to get lawmakers to switch sides. “I should thank him for cleansing our party of bad eggs,” Imran quipped.
The PTI chairman also welcomed and praised independent MPA Bilal Warraich for joining the government coalition.
He expressed hope that the coalition would be successful in the confidence vote, adding that it would be taken soon in a day or two.
Crisis in Punjab
After Imran’s announcement of the Punjab and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa assemblies’ dissolution, the coalition leaders had sprung into action to prevent Elahi from dissolving the PA.
In a double-edged move on Dec 20, the Punjab governor had asked the chief minister to obtain a vote of confidence from the Punjab Assembly, while PML-N and PPP lawmakers had submitted a separate no-trust resolution against him in a bid to bar him from dissolving the assembly.
However, PA Speaker Sibtain Khan had termed the governor’s orders as “illegal, against the provisions of the Constitution and thus stand disposed of”.
In his two-page ruling, the speaker maintained that the governor’s orders were not in accordance with Article 54(3) and Article 127. “The house is in session since Oct 23, 2022, and under Articles 54(3) and 127. No fresh session can be convened unless and until the current one ends,” the order read.
Subsequently, on Dec 21, the Punjab governor had termed the speaker’s ruling “unconstitutional”.
In a late-night move on Dec 23, the governor had de-notified Elahi. In an order, he said: “Consequent to the facts that Ch. Parvez Elahi … refrained from obtaining the vote of confidence at 1600 hours yesterday (Wednesday), in line with an order under Article 130(7) of the Constitution … issued under my hand on Dec 19, 2022, in line with Rule 22(7) of the Rules of Procedure of provincial assembly of Punjab, 1997, and that he still has not done so even after the lapse of another 24 hours, I am satisfied that he does not command the confidence of the majority of the members of the Punjab Assembly, and therefore ceases to hold his office with immediate effect.”
As a result, “the provincial cabinet stands dissolved forthwith”, he had said.
Subsequently, CM Elahi had approached the LHC, saying the move was “unconstitutional, unlawful and of no legal effect”.
At the previous hearing, the LHC had reinstated the PML-Q leader as the chief minister and restored the provincial cabinet as an “interim relief” after he submitted an undertaking assuring the court that he would not dissolve the provincial assembly until the next hearing (Jan 11).
During the hearing today, the court extended the relief granted to Elahi till Thursday (Jan 12), 9am. It also said that the chief minister could not dissolve the assembly during this time.