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Sunday September 25, 2022

Chaudhry Shujaat's last-minute move helps Hamza Shahbaz retain CM Punjab's position

PML-N's Hamza Shahbaz bags 3-vote victory over Pervez Elahi after 10 votes of PML-Q members rejected

By Web Desk
July 22, 2022

Chief Minister Punjab Hamza Shahbaz. — Agencies
Chief Minister Punjab Hamza Shahbaz. — Agencies

LAHORE: The Punjab Assembly chose to retain Hamza Shahbaz as the province's chief minister once again in the face of a formidable PTI as he defeated his rival Pervez Elahi in the run-off election — held in line with the Supreme Court's order.

The odds were against Hamza, the joint candidate of the Pakistan Democratic Movement (PDM), as the PTI seemingly had the majority with 178 votes of their own and 10 of the PML-Q.

But just minutes before the session, PML-Q chief Chaudhry Shujaat wrote a letter to Deputy Speaker Dost Muhammad Mazari in which he told them that he had directed the party’s lawmakers to vote for Hamza Shahbaz.

After the counting of the votes was done, the deputy speaker read out the letter sent to him by the PML-Q president and citing Article 63A of the Constitution, rejected 10 votes cast by PML-Q members.

 Who can give directions to MPs under SC order on Article 63(A)?

The Supreme Court of Pakistan, back in May, had ruled the votes of dissident members of the Parliament (MPs), cast against their parliamentary party's directives, cannot be counted.

The apex court, issuing its verdict on the presidential reference seeking the interpretation of Article 63(A) of the Constitution related to defecting lawmakers of the PTI, said that the law cannot be interpreted in isolation.

During today's ruling, Article 63(A) was applied after PML-Q President, Chaudhry Shujaat, wrote a letter to the deputy speaker, saying that he had directed the party not to vote in any party's favour. 

PTI to move Supreme Court over Mazari's decision 

Following Mazari's decision to disregard the 10 votes of PML-Q members — a move that allowed Hamza to retain his post as the chief minister of Punjab — PTI said that it would approach the country's top court to challenge the decision.

The election of the chief executive of the country’s largest province between PML-N’s Hamza Shahbaz Sharif and PTI and PML-Q’s candidate Pervez Elahi will determine national politics.

Political analysts believe if the opposition parties — PTI and the PMLQ — win the prized slot in Punjab, the coalition government in the Centre will ultimately feel the heat.

With two provincial governments in the pocket, the ousted premier Imran Khan would prove to be a bigger threat to the Shahbaz Sharif-led federal government, hence there may be an early general election.

Moonis says Chaudhry Shujaat  will not back Imran Khan's candidate

In a major development ahead of the voting, PML-Q leader Moonis Elahi said that his uncle, senior party leader Chaudhry Shujaat, has refused to back Imran Khan's candidate.

He said that he had gone to visit Shujaat but he refused to issue a video recording in this regard. "I have lost and Imran Khan has lost as well but Zardari has won," Moonis quoted his uncle as saying.

In response, former interior minister Sheikh Rasheed said that Elahi was the parliamentary leader of PML-Q.

"Chaudhry Shujaat had said twice or thrice before that he would back Elahi, but Asif Zardari has, once again, exposed himself."

Later, while speaking to senior journalist Ansar Abbasi, Moonis said that Shujaat had written a letter to the deputy speaker, stating that no one from the party will be casting their votes.

"Asif Zardari had assured Shujaat that he would make Elahi the chief minister of Punjab," Moonis said. "Zardari had also told him that Elahi would be the candidate for PML-N and allies."

Moonis added that his party will only vote for Imran Khan's candidate, adding that no one from his party will be casting a vote in favour of PML-N or its allies to become the next chief minister.

He also took to his Twitter account and shared with the masses that a day ago, PML parliamentary party, chaired by the parliamentary party leader in the provincial assembly Sajid Bhatti, held its meeting and it was decided unanimously that Elahi would be the candidate for the CM's slot. 

Ahead of the election, the members of the PTI and PML-Q — who were staying at a hotel for the last couple of days — were brought to the provincial assembly.

PML-Q members protest outside Shujaat's Lahore residence

Following Shujaat's announcement that the party will distance itself from voting for PTI's candidate in the Punjab CM's election, PML-Q workers, amid a heavy contingent of police personnel, staged a protest outside his Lahore residence.

The protesters held lotas — a symbol for turncoats — in their hands during the demonstration and chanted slogans in favour of Elahi.

Speaking on the occasion, Opposition Leader Sibtain Khan claimed that  186 members of the Opposition were present in the assembly.

Meanwhile, PTI’s candidate Pervez Elahi said that the decisions taken yesterday will be implemented.

When asked to comment on Minister for  Interior Rana Sanullah’s statement that more than 50 members will not vote during the election, Elahi said: "Don’t talk about a person who has never spoken the truth in his life."

Senior PTI leader hints at not dissolving assembly

Talking to journalists shortly before the start of the session, PTI Secretary-General Asad Umar hinted at not dissolving the Punjab Assembly after Elahi gets elected as the chief minister.

“The Punjab Assembly will continue till the current system is intact,” he told journalists.

The PTI leader said that PPP Co-chairperson Asif Ali Zardari’s politics of “buying” politicians has ceased to exist as the voters have rejected the party, referring to the PTI's victory in the by-election.

Umar added that the PTI has the numbers it needs and Elahi will win the election.

Qureshi hopes poll will be conducted ‘peacefully’

PTI Senior Vice President Shah Mahmood Qureshi, meanwhile, told journalists that he hopes that the election will be conducted “peacefully” as compared to the last one which was marred by violence.

Assuring that the party will cooperate with the deputy speaker, he hoped that PTI’s allies and the government will abide by their promise.

Qureshi termed the “auctions” of politicians embarrassing and urged the Supreme Court to take notice of the people who have sold their “conscience”.

186 MPAs arrive at assembly

PTI leader and former minister for Kashmir and Gilgit-Baltistan affairs Ali Amin Gandapur was seen leading his party’s MPAs in buses to the Punjab Assembly.

Gandapur, known for his hardline attitude, counted the MPAs to ensure that the party has the right number of lawmakers and their and PML-Q’s joint candidate wins the CM election today.

The PTI said that a total of 186 — the required simple majority of lawmakers — had reached the Punjab Assembly and they were asked to remain in the assembly’s committee room.

The lawmakers were taken to the assembly in four separate buses — and were not allowed to arrive at the assembly on their own as the party wanted to ensure that none of their lawmakers went missing for any reason.

The MPAs also offered Friday prayers in the committee room.

Independent candidate announces support for Hamza

Syed Muhammad Rafiuddin Bukhari, an independent candidate who clinched PP-228 Lodhran V in the by-election and secured 45,020 votes, announced support for Hamza.

“Although I am not a member of a party, I will support Hamza Shahbaz sahab,” Bukhari said in a video shared by the PML-N.

LHC prohibits police from entering assembly

On the petition of the Leader of the opposition in the Punjab Assembly Sibtain Khan and PTI leader Zainab Umar, the Lahore High Court (LHC) prohibited Punjab Police from entering the assembly premises.

LHC’s Justice Muzammil Akhtar Shabbir said that the police can enter the assembly premises if the law and order situation deteriorates.

PTI protests against Zardari

During the past three to four days, both sides exchanged allegations of horse-trading against each other.

The PTI workers staged a protest demonstration at Liberty Chowk in Lahore and its leadership vehemently condemned the presence of Asif Ali Zardari, the PPP head, in Lahore in the last two days.

During this period, he held meetings with PML-Q President Chaudhry Shujaat Hussain. The opposition believes that Asif Zardari was manipulating the poll process and heavy offers were being made to the MPAs for supporting Hamza Shahbaz.