LAHORE: Amid rising political tensions, Punjab Assembly’s Director-General Parliamentary Affairs Rai Mumtaz has been arrested hours before today’s crucial session.
The police raided his house at around 3:30 am and shifted him to an unknown location after taking Mumtaz into custody, said his family.
The Punjab Assembly spokesperson confirmed the reports of Mumtaz's detention, saying that the police leaped the walls of the DG's house. He said that the houses of PA Secretary Muhammad Khan Bhatti and Coordination Secretary Inayatullah were also raided.
The spokesperson further stated that they also have video evidence of the raids on assembly official's residences. He also accused police of vandalism during the raids.
Sources privy to the matter said that Rai Mumtaz has been arrested in a case registered against him by PML-N MPA Muhammad Ashraf Rasool.
A day earlier, Ashraf Rasool had registered a case against Punjab Assembly Secretary Muhammad Khan Bhatti, Inayatullah Lak and Rai Muhammad at Shahdara police station.
Condemning the raids and the arrest, Chaudhry Pervaiz Elahi said that every action is being taken at the behest of Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif. He termed the arrest and raids a “fascist action” by the government.
"The arrest of an assembly official and raids is a proof that the government is panicked. The face of the Sharifs is being exposed before the nation," Elahi said.
He said that the government is revealing new tactics after violating the sanctity of Parliament, as he referred to the Punjab Assembly ruckus during the election for the chief minister. The government is taking unconstitutional steps, he added.
Elahi, while referring to PM Shehbaz Sharif and Punjab Chief Minister Hamza Shahbaz, said "the father-son duo are doing this to the assembly because they have less numbers."
He questioned how he could assume charge as the Punjab governor when Omar Sarfaraz Cheema still serves the post. He said that he is still a candidate for the CM's slot.
Despite the security situation around the PA, the speaker urged the MPAs to reach the assembly by 12.
"The assembly will surely meet today. Let's see who stops the elected MPAs from entering the assembly," Elahi said, adding that they will face the government's fascism firmly.
He said that all MPAs will attend the session as no one can stop the elected representatives from going to the assembly.
Meanwhile, PTI leader Musarrat Jamshed Cheema said that there is lawlessnes in the country and no one is safe here. She said that the PML-N is in the government to close all the cases against its leaders.
"They [government] accepted its defeat by arresting Rai Mumtaz," Cheema said.
Keeping the intensifying situation in the provincial politics in mind, the police has been directed to stay on high alert and a heavy police force was deputed in the surroundings of the provincial assembly.
The administration closed the doors of PA while barbed wires were placed in front of the assembly building. Punjab assembly staff said that even they are not allowed to enter the assembly.
Earlier, PA Speaker Chaudhry Pervaiz Elahi has once again convened a meeting of the provincial assembly today (Sunday) in a surprise move ahead of the previous date fixed for the session, The News reported. The assembly was previously slated to meet on May 30.
This is the third time that the date of the PA session has been changed as the speaker first gave the date of May 16 when the assembly was scheduled to meet in the first week of May. However, the session wasn't held on the given date and rescheduled for May 30.
Given the dramatic change in the numbers game in the PA after the Election Commission of Pakistan's decision to de-seat the dissident PTI MPAs, Elahi called the assembly meeting just on the notice of one day.
It is pertinent to mention here that most of the MPAs hailing from remote districts of Punjab are not expected to attend the session taking place today. The session will be presided over by Elahi, who just a day ago issued a statement that he would dissolve the PA within half an hour after getting elected as the CM. The PTI and the PML-Q, two opposition components in the PA, jointly form the strength of 168 (158 of PTI and 10 of PML-Q). If the vote of Mir Dost Muhammad Mazari, the deputy speaker who is supporting the PML-N now, is considered minus from the PTI tally, the joint PTI and PML-Q strength could reduce to 167.
Hamza Shahbaz, if asked to prove majority in the House, needs to win the election even by a margin of one vote and does not have to prove the 186 members figure, as it would be the second round of the CM election. The PML-N has a total of 166 MPAs, but five of its members are dissidents. With the safe support of 161 MPAs now, Hamza earns the support of seven PPP MPAs and four independents as well as one from the Rah-e-Haq Party, which takes the present treasury benches strength to 173.
The PML-N is still leading the contest apparently and if even two or three dissident MPAs end their differences with the parent party, the PML-N could survive, though not by a big margin. The PA speaker is expected to take important decisions concerning the no-confidence move against him as well as his deputy, though both represent rival camps now. The situation is also interesting because at present, Punjab has no governor and in case the House passes any bill, it could also wait for another two weeks to reach the governor who is the signing authority.
A very noisy PA session is expected today as the temperature is high on both sides. A recent statement of former prime minister Imran Khan regarding Maryam Nawaz has also been condemned and the PML-N has submitted a resolution in the PA against it.
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