Saturday September 30, 2023

Punjab Assembly session crisis deepens

Speaker refuses to hold session when CM Elahi required seek a vote of confidence from House under Governor’s order

December 21, 2022
Punjab Assembly Speaker Sibtain Khan. The News/File
Punjab Assembly Speaker Sibtain Khan. The News/File

LAHORE: Sparking a constitutional crisis, Punjab Assembly Speaker Sibtain Khan refused to hold the session on Wednesday (today) when Chief Minister Pervaiz Elahi is required seek a vote of confidence from the House under the Governor’s order.

Talking to media outside the PA on Tuesday, Speaker of Punjab Assembly Sibtain Khan said, “The assembly is already in session as we did not prorogue it, it was only adjourned. So I believe the session summoned by the governor is illegal.”

He said that if the Governor still wants to summon a session despite the fact that it was illegal, he could call it at Aiwan-e-Iqbal, adding, “If today’s business is completed, we can adjourn the session.”

Meanwhile, when the PA session started, the opposition members at the very outset pointed out the quorum. Khalil Tahir Sindhu of the PMLN pointed out the quorum on which provincial ministers Raja Basharat and Mian Aslam Iqbal criticised the opposition for not showing any interest in the assembly business.

The House failed to meet the quorum and the speaker adjourned the session until Friday, ignoring Governor’s call to conduct the proceedings for vote of confidence on Wednesday. The development means there will be no session for two days — Wednesday and Thursday. Against this backdrop, the PMLN is likely move court against the speaker’s ruling, and in case the court takes cognizance of the matter, Imran Khan’s resolve to dissolve the PA by December 23 may not be materialise.

Imran Khan on Tuesday also held a meeting with constitutional experts at Zaman Park to discuss the situation.

Meanwhile, the governor Punjab may call the election of the new chief minister besides sealing the Chief Minister’s House in case the chief minister of Punjab does not take the vote of confidence today (Wednesday). The PMLN and its allies have also submitted a motion for a vote of no-confidence against Chief Minister Pervaiz Elahi.

As per the numbers game of the government and opposition alliance, the total number of members in the Punjab Assembly is 371 out of which the number of members of the government alliance is 190 (180 PTI and 10 seats of PMLQ). The total number of members of the opposition alliance is 180. The opposition alliance includes Pakistan Muslim League Nawaz (167 seats), Pakistan Peoples Party (07 seats), Rah Haq Party (01 seats) and five independent MPAs. Chaudhry Nisar is the only neutral MPA in the Punjab Assembly.

On the other hand, Interior Minister Rana Sanaullah Khan said the Speaker’s position was wrong. “This is against the Constitution as the Governor can call a session of the assembly,” he said, adding the session must be held at four o’clock for taking the vote of confidence today (Wednesday), as directed by the Governor.

The interior minister claimed that even if the session was not called, the chief minister will have to take a vote of confidence as directed by the Governor under Article 130(7) of the Constitution of Pakistan.

The minister asked why the CM is evading the vote of confidence while he has repeatedly claimed that 99 per cent members of the house, including himself, do not want assembly’s dissolution?

“A madman is causing disaster for the PTI and Punjab. This crazy person should understand the prevailing situation,” he said, and maintained that there was a consensus among the nation and institutions that this crazy man should be stopped. He said if Pervaiz Elahi himself was against dissolving the Punjab Assembly, then why he was supporting Imran Khan’s decision of dissolving the Punjab and KPK assemblies.

The minister claimed that if Pervaiz Elahi did not get the vote of confidence, the governor could announce the election for the new chief minister, adding all coalition parties were on the same page and communicating with each other.

Earlier, Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif held a meeting of PMLN leaders at the Governor’s House here on Tuesday and discussed his strategy. Punjab Governor Balighur Rehman, several federal ministers, Tariq Bashir Cheema, Aun Chaudhry, Special Assistant to Prime Minister Malik Ahmad Khan and others participated. They discussed all legal and constitutional aspects related to the Punjab Assembly.

Meanwhile, former president Asif Ali Zardari on Tuesday chaired the PPP Punjab Parliamentary meeting that decided to side with the PDM’s stance to save the Punjab Assembly from dissolution.

At the Bilawal House, Zardari took his party MPAs into confidence over his recent meetings with Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif and senior politician Chaudhry Shujaat Hussain.

Asif Zardari said the PPP was ready to render any sacrifice for the supremacy of parliament and democracy. He added the country could not afford to have forces promoting politics of anarchy and instability.

Zardari, during his stay in Lahore, has held meetings with PM Shehbaz Sharif, Chaudhry Shujaat Hussain and his son Chaudhry Salik Hussein.

On the other hand, PTI Senior Vice President Fawad Chaudhary said the Punjab Assembly would be dissolved soon after defeating the vote of no-confidence.

Addressing a press conference, he said his party had decided to keep its alliance intact with the PMLQ, adding both coalition partners would join forces to thwart the opposition’s attempts to oust CM Pervaiz Elahi. “The PTI and PMLQ have the numbers to defeat the opposition’s move of removing Punjab Chief Minister Pervaiz Elahi,” claimed Fawad.

“It is the Speaker’s prerogative to decide whether to take up the no-confidence vote first or the vote of confidence,” he added.

“At present, our numbers in the Punjab Assembly stand at 190 while two of our members who abstained from the previous no-confidence vote have been sent a notice to ensure their presence on the voting day. All our combined members have been instructed to vote for Pervaiz Elahi,” he said, accusing the federal government of trying to run away from general elections. “Only six days left in the local government elections in Islamabad but the government is trying to derail it by increasing the number of union council seats in the capital.” Fawad observed that the stock exchange market had dropped by 1,100 points while there was a talk of increasing the power tariff by 30-40pc. “The government has no money to buy fuel for power generation and it is planning to restrict the working hours for shops and restaurants. This will lead to unemployment,” he added.

He also lambasted the coalition government for failing to control terrorism in the country and securing the country’s borders. “If the government does not have the capacity to run the country, it should leave,” he added.

Meanwhile, Chief Minister Punjab Chaudhry Pervaiz Elahi on Tuesday discussed seat adjustment with the PTI for the next general or by-elections. The PTI delegation that called on CM Punjab at his residence included Shah Mehmood Qureshi, Pervaiz Khattak and Fawad Chaudhry. Sources stated the PMLQ wants to field candidates from districts like Gujrat, Mandi Bahauddin, Wazirabad, Chakwal and Bahawalpur besides it wants a greater quota of candidates from the PTI.

Also, senior leader of Pakistan Muslim League Tariq Bashir Cheema called on Governor Punjab Muhammad Balighur Rehman on Tuesday at the Governor House, Lahore, to discuss the overall political situation of the country and matters of mutual interest. Speaking on the occasion, the governor Punjab said that those who were bent upon creating instability and disorder in the country would not succeed in their designs.

He said the country was passing through a difficult situation due to the floods and economic problems. However, the coalition government is making all efforts to bring an improvement in all sectors, including economy.

The Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PMLN) and PPP submitted the no-confidence motion against the Punjab CM a day earlier in a bid to thwart the PTI’s plan of dissolving the assembly. The PTI Chairman, Imran Khan, announced last week that he would dissolve both assemblies, Punjab and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, on December 23. Subsequently, Punjab Governor Baligh-ur-Rehman convened the crucial meeting of the provincial assembly on December 21 (Wednesday).