LAHORE -

Amid presence of a tiny opposition, the Punjab Assembly on Monday elected PML-N nominees Rana Muhammad Iqbal and Sher Ali Gorchani as speaker and deputy speaker respectively, setting the stage for election of the chief minister on June 6.

The PPP, with only seven members in a House of 371, abstained from the election process. The PTI and the PML-Q with the combined strength of 35 members did participate in the process by fielding joint candidates for the two slots.

Dr Wasim Akhtar, the sole Jamat-e-Islami lawmaker in the House announced to stay away from the election process citing policy decision by his party.

Rana Iqbal, who has been elected speaker for the second term, got 297 votes as against 35 of his rival Raja Arshad Hafeez of the PTI. Ex-Deputy Speaker Rana Mashhood, whose name was at the top of the list of panel of chairmen announced for the present session, acted as presiding officer for election of the speaker.

The press gallery witnessed an exciting part of the polling when Rana Mashhood forgot to cast his own vote and declared the polling closed after waiting for few minutes to ensure that all members present in the House and the lobbies had cast their votes.

When he was about to order the Assembly staff to start counting of the votes, Zaeem Qadri of the PML-N, sitting in the front row, point out that he (Mashhood) had not yet cast his own vote.

Upon this, Mashhood asked Nadeem Kamran, next in the list of panel of chairmen, to act as presiding officer during the time he would be casting his vote. No body from the opposition side questioned this anomaly since the vote was cast after the polling had been officially closed by none else than Mashhood himself.

A total of 332 votes were polled during election of the speaker while the count stood at 330 in case of the deputy speaker.

Around three dozen Punjab Assembly seats are lying vacant because the candidates who got elected on multiple seats have yet to relinquish the additional seats. They would be filled in a by-election at a later stage.

After the incoming Rana (Iqbal) was declared successful, the outgoing Rana (Mashhood) administered oath to the newcomer, who later conducted the election of the deputy speaker.

Sardar Sher Ali Gorchani, who hails from southern district of Rajanpur, secured 293 votes, four less than the votes secured by the speaker. It means that four PML-N members did not vote for him. One of these four happens to be Chief Minister-designate Shahbaz Sharif who, according to PML-N sources, had to leave for Islamabad to attend a meeting there immediately after casting his vote in favour of Rana Iqbal.

Two PML-N members, Muhammad Arif Abbasi and Aamir Hayat Haraj, who did cast their vote for the speaker, did not do the same for the deputy speaker. The fourth one could not be identified.

Interestingly, Waqas Hasan Mokal, the PML-Q candidate for the slot of deputy speaker obtained 37 votes, two more than the actual strength (35) of the PML-Q and the PTI in the Assembly.

It is quite possible that the two extra votes might have come either from the PML-Z, APML or the PNML which have four members in the Assembly collectively.

Later, addressing the Assembly members, Rana Iqbal thanked the PML-N leadership for his nomination for the office of speaker. He also expressed gratitude to the members for reposing confidence in him for another five years. He assured the House that he would respect mandate of all the political parties.

Sher Ali Gorchani also expressed similar views. Raja Rashid Hafeez, the PTI candidate for the office of speaker, told the House that opposition would not criticise the government only for the sake of opposition. “We would appreciate good work of the government and criticise it wherever it is found wrong”, he affirmed. Hafeez said though the opposition was less in number but it would prove its worth in terms of quality.