LAHORE/ ISLAMABAD: Punjab Assembly Speaker Chaudhry Pervaiz Elahi will compete with Opposition Leader in the Punjab Assembly Hamza Shehbaz for the Punjab chief minister slot as the Punjab governor on Friday accepted the resignation of Chief Minister Sardar Usman Buzdar after which the provincial cabinet was also dissolved.
Buzdar shall continue to hold office until his successor is elected by the Punjab Assembly. Usman Buzdar, a surprise choice by Prime Minister Imran Khan for the slot of the chief minister four years ago, had to resign eventually after demands of his removal from a rebel group of PTI MPAs supporting Jehangir Khan Tareen.The revolt of the Tareen group MPAs and MNAs in Punjab has even brought the Imran Khan government in the Centre on the verge of collapse.
Meanwhile, the Punjab governor also summoned the Punjab Assembly session on Saturday (today) after the resignation of the chief minister. The PTI (Imran Khan's group) has nominated Pervaiz Elahi as its candidate while Hamza Shehbaz is a joint candidate of the united opposition. After the resignation of Usman Buzdar was accepted, PMLN legislators and senior leaders gathered at the Punjab Assembly and demanded the issuance of nomination forms. Talking to the media, former Punjab Assembly Deputy Speaker Rana Mashood said that Imran Khan had sacrificed the Punjab chief minister to protect his government. Atta Ullah Tarar said even PTI MPAs were not willing to support Pervaiz Elahi.
Usman Buzdar served as the chief minister from August 2018 to April 2022. Now, the PTI government is facing the real test to protect its government in the Centre, especially after its coalition partner, the MQM-P, has joined the united opposition. On the other hand, the PMLN, with the support of most MPAs of Jehangir Tareen's group, is also confident of bagging the top slot in Punjab.
A revolt in the PTI in Punjab and its division in different groups have put the PMLN in a favourable position for the slot of chief minister. A divided PTI, led by Prime Minister Imran Khan, has named Chaudhry Pervaiz Elahi for the CM slot in Punjab whereas the PMLN looks quite confident of attaining and surpassing the number of 186 in the House of 371 to win the top slot. The PMLN has total 165 MPAs in the House, though five of its MPAs have revolted, which takes its strength to 160. The PPP, the second major component of the opposition, has seven MPAs but with the revolt of one MPA, its existing strength is six. In this way, the PMLN and the PPP collectively have 166 MPAs, which means the opposition is 20 members short of getting a simple majority. Out of the five independent MPAs, Jugnu Mohsin has already announced supporting the PMLN and four others including Ahmad Ali Aulakh, Qasim Langha, Bilal Warraich and Chaudhry Nisar, all except Nisar, are close to the PMLN. In this way, the PMLN with the support of the four independent MPAs can take its joint strength to 170 (including 160 of the PMLN, six of the PPP and four independents). With a confirmed support of 170 MPAs in the House, it is facing a shortfall of 16 MPAs which, according to sources, is being filled by the rebel PTI MPAs, representing the groups of Jehangir Khan Tareen and Abdul Aleem Khan.
Sources stated most PTI MPAs have agreed to accept defection while voting against the party lines and to return to the assembly in by-polls on PMLN tickets. Under the current circumstances when the PTI government is facing a serious crisis and criticism over many issues, PMLN candidates are likely to get the advantage of public sentiments. A view of the ruling coalition shows the PTI has total 11 members as its allies, including 10 of the PMLQ and one of Rah e Haq Party, Muavya Azam Tariq. The total number of PTI MPAs in the House is 183 but around two dozen members representing the group of Jehangir Khan Tareen and a few more siding with Aleem Khan, who have a visible tilt towards the PMLN. In this way, the PTI is facing a massive dent. In order to attain the figure of 186 MPAs in the House, Pervaiz Elahi will have to work really hard.
Meanwhile, the Cheena group, under the leadership of Ghazanfar Abbas Cheena, called on Punjab Speaker Chaudhry Pervaiz Elahi and formally announced its support for the chief minister slot. Pervaiz Elahi had met the Cheena group for its support yesterday and it had sought 24 hours to decide about it. In today’s meeting, the group formally announced its support. Meanwhile, a number of MPAs also called on Pervaiz Elahi. They included Muhammad Basharat Raja, Hafiz Ammar Yasir, Chaudhry Zaheeruddin, Dr Muhammad Afzal, Ehsanul Haq, Muneeb Sultan Cheema, Mahindra Pall Singh, Uzma Kardar, Abdullah Yusuf Warraich, Bao Rizwan, Wasim Khan Badozai, Shaukat Ali Lalika, Mohammad Hashim Dogar, Momina Waheed, Sardar Asif Nakai, Mian Shafi Mohammad, Sabin Gul, Pir Syed Saeed Al Hassan Shah, Sajid Ahmad Khan Bhatti, Mian Aslam Iqbal, Yawar Abbas Bukhari, Hashim Jawan Bakht, Shahida Malik, Tariq Tarar, Mohsin Leghari, Owais Dareshk, Ahmad Khan, Amir Nawaz Khan, Saleem Bibi, Syed Ali Abbas Shah, Faisal Niazi, Ashraf Ansari, Raja Humayun Yasir, Miss Sonia, Chaudhry Liaquat Ali and Mian Akhtar Hayat.
On the other hand, the PPP will support PMLN candidate Hamza Shehbaz. It was decided in a meeting of the PPP parliamentary party jointly chaired by former President Asif Ali Zardari and PPP Chairman Bilawal Bhutto Zardari and attended by Yousuf Raza Gilani, Raja Pervez Ashraf, Nayyar Hussain Bukhari, Syed Hassan Murtaza, Ali Haider Gilani, Makhdoom Usman Mahmood, Ghazanfar Lala, Raees Nabil, Mumtaz Chang and Shazia Abid. Later, Opposition leader in the NA and PMLN President Shehbaz Sharif and PPP Chairman Bilawal held an informal meeting at dinner hosted by PPP leader Qamar Zaman Kaira for the opposition members in which they agreed to name Hamza Shehbaz as a candidate of the opposition.
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