LAHORE: The oath-taking inaugural session of the Punjab Assembly followed the old norms by starting over 50 minutes late on Wednesday.
The members were newly-elected; however, the old habits appeared to have stayed in place as the session, scheduled to start at 10 am, began at around 11 am. Outgoing Speaker Rana Iqbal took oath from the members after which he congratulated them. The assembly premise was abuzz with the freshly elected members who showed up in their best attires.
Meanwhile, the Punjab Assembly will elect its speaker and deputy speaker through secret ballot on Thursday (today). In case Chaudhry Nisar and five others, who are yet to take oath, participate in the process, a total of 359 MPAs in the House of 371 are expected to participate in election for which candidates of PTI-PML-Q are contesting against PML-N. This is noteworthy that the notifications of 359 MPAs have been issued by the ECP out of which 353 members took oath on Wednesday.
Chaudhry Pervaiz Elahi, who also served as Punjab Assembly Speaker in 1997-99, is once again contesting for the slot as the joint candidate of PTI and PML-Q and facing a senior parliamentarian Chaudhry Iqbal Gujjar of PML-N.
For the deputy speaker, ex-MNA and grandson of former caretaker prime minister Sardar Balakh Sher Mazari is contesting as the candidate of PTI and facing Waris Shah of PML-N. The nomination papers for the speaker and deputy speaker were filed by the candidates on Wednesday, which were received by Assembly Secretary Mohammed Khan Bhatti. Mian Mujtaba Shuja-ur-Rehman of PML-N also filed nominations but withdrew the same later.
Although the PTI claims to have attained the simple majority in the House with the help of its allies and independents, a tough contest is expected for the two slots. The margin between victory and defeat will be between 10 to 20 votes, said a senior member of the House.
The PTI, whose two MPAs have expired after getting elected on July 25, has 121 general seats and the total party strength stands at 158 with the addition of 33 women and four minority MPAs on reserved seats. With the additional support of 10 MPAs of PML-Q and 15 independents who have so far joined the PTI, it stands at 183. But more independent members like Ahmed Ali Aulakh and others, who have good relationship with Chaudhrys, could vote for Pervaiz Elahi in secret ballot.
On the other hand, the PML-N, with 129 MPAs on general seats, also has 33 other members on reserved seats – 29 women and four minority), stands as the second largest party in the House now. One independent member Rana Liaqat has already joined the PML-N and it also claims to have attained support of some more legislators after which it enjoys the strength of 165.
The PPP has seven MPAs in the House but its leadership, till the filing of report, was yet to decide its strategy. In case the PPP votes for PML-N, its candidate could get around 171 votes.
Nevertheless, Pervaiz Elahi is in a stronger position to get elected as speaker for a second term. He has also served as chief minister and would become the second person in the history after Hanif Ramay to hold the office of speaker after serving as the chief minister.