The presidential poll Tuesday exposed yet again the PML-N’s vulnerability to be skewed by political opponents at crucial times when it is supposed to show unity in its ranks.
It happened in Punjab Assembly on Tuesday for the third consecutive time starting from the Senate elections of March 2018. The last time it occurred was at the time of speaker’s election in Punjab Assembly when at least 12 PML-N members switched loyalties and voted for Ch Parvez Elahi in a secret ballot.
In the last Senate elections, 38 PML-N lawmakers did not vote for their party candidates though it won 11 of the 12 Senate seats from Punjab at that time on the basis of its huge size in the Assembly.
In a stark violation of party discipline, at least 16 PML-N MPAs Tuesday did not cast their vote for Maulana Fazlur Rehman, the presidential candidate supported by their party. They did not support the PTI candidate though, but they made it sure to get their vote go wasted by putting the tick mark at the wrong place on the ballot paper.
As the total count of other parties was established to be almost intact after the results were announced, the PML-N started finding 16 of the total 18 rejected votes in its own ranks. The polling agents later also confirmed that only two votes one each of Dr Arif Alvi and Ch Aitzaz Ahsan were rejected.
At present, the PML-N has total strength of 159 members in the Punjab Assembly while two of its MPAs did not turn up to cast their votes on Tuesday. If the two absentees are excluded from the total count, the PML-N-supported candidate should have got 157 votes instead of 141 votes polled yesterday. Hence it can be safely assumed that 16 of the PML-N MPAs let their vote go to waste by technical means.
As per the election results announced by the presiding officer (Chief Justice of Lahore High Court Justice Muhammad Yawar Ali), PTI candidate Dr Arif Alvi got 186 votes (33 electoral votes, PML-N-supported candidate Maulana Fazlur Rehman secured 141 (25 electoral votes) and PPP candidate, Aitzaz Ahsan obtained six votes (one electoral vote).
A total of 351 members exercised their right to vote as 17 seats are lying vacant while three MPAs, one belonging to the PML-Q and two to the PML-N did not turn up to cast their votes. Ali Abbas (PP-187-Okara) and Arshad Javid Warriach (PP-44-Sialkot) of the PML-N opted not to come to the assembly yesterday. Basma Chaudhry (Women reserved seat) of the PML-Q also did not turn up.
Four members which include Ch Nisar Ali Khan (an independently elected member) and three PML-N lawmakers, Mian Jaleel Ahmed, Syeda Uzma Qadri and Ms Nafisa Ameen were not entitled to cast their votes since they have not taken oath of their assembly membership as yet. The latter three have not been counted in the present strength of the PML-N which is 159 members at the moment.
Yesterday’s presidential election also made the respective party positions in the Punjab Assembly pretty much clear. In the present situation, the government alliance in Punjab Assembly consists of 188 members including 175 of the PTI, 10 of the PML-Q, one member of Rah-e-Haq party and two independents who have been casting their votes in favour of PTI candidates starting from the speaker’s election.
Technically, the opposition alliance consists of 169 members including 162 of the PML-N and seven of the PPP though the latter is pursuing its own policy in the present assembly.
16 PML-N MPAs violate party discipline