LAHORE - Amid uncertainty about its new leader of the house, the 17th Punjab Assembly is having its maiden session today marking a smooth transition of power from one elected government to another.

Ambiguity still shrouds the name of new Punjab chief minister whose election is only two days away. On their inaugural sessions, all other legislatures - both provincial and federal - had clarity about the names of the new chief executives. Punjab remains the only province which is still indecisive about its political head. Only the prime minister-in-waiting knows the name which is most likely to be disclosed after election of the speaker and the deputy speaker in Punjab Assembly tomorrow.

Speaker Rana Muhammad Iqbal will administer oath to the newly-elected members in the inaugural session. The session will continue for three days.

As is evident by the tentative party position in the Punjab Assembly, the PML-N will be sitting on the opposition benches after 10 years after the election of the new chief minister on August 17 (Friday). 

Following the allocation of reserved seats for women and non-Muslims, the PTI-led alliance has the support of 185 members, one short of the simple majority figure. This also includes 10 members of the PML-Q, a party which ruled the province from 2002 to 2007. But this time, it is set to have its speaker elected in the new assembly despite its meager numeral strength. 

The PML-N has 162 members-elect after allocation of the reserved seats. The PPP which has seven members in a house of 371 but it is less likely to support the PML-N nominees for slots of speaker, deputy speaker and the chief minister.

Out of the three independents, Ch Nisar Ali Khan, Ahmad Ali Aulakh and Jugnu Mohsin, the latter two have assured their support to the PTI candidates for the top slots in Punjab. Muhammad Moawia of Rah-e-Haq party (newer version of banned Sipah-e-Sahaba) is also most likely to support the PTI candidates. 

Thirteen Punjab Assembly seats are lying vacant for varying reasons. Seven members-elect who were also elected on national seats have left their provincial seats. They include: Tahir Sadiq (PTI MNA from Attock), Fawad Ch (PTI MNA from Jhelum), Mian Mohammad Shehbaz Sharif (PML-N MNA-He was elected on two provincial seats from Lahore), Rai Muhammad Murtaza Iqbal (PTI MNA, Makhdum Hashim Jawan Bakht (PTI MPA-elect-He was elected on two provincial seats) and Makhdumzada Basit Sultan Bokhari, an independent MNA from Muzaffargarh.

The election commission had withheld results of three provincial seats which include: PP-76 (Sargodha), PP-118 (T.T.Singh) and PP-177 (Kasur). PTI’s Faisal Farooq Cheema, Ch Khalid Javid of the PML-N and Hashim Dogar of the PTI were initially declared winners on these seats respectively.

In a very rare case of passing away of a member-elect before taking oath, a seat became vacant as PTI’s Tariq Dareshak elected from PP-296 (Rajanpur) died last week. Also, election could not take place on two provincial seats, PP-87 (Mianwali) and PP-103 due to deaths of contesting candidates. Just before the elections, an independent candidate in NA-103 and PP-103 Tandlianwala (Faisalabad), Mirza Ahmad Mughal committed suicide by shooting himself. He was reportedly upset over his sons' support to his opponent in the election. Election was also postponed in PP-87 following the death of Ahmad Khan, a candidate of the Pakistan Justice and Democratic Party.

Interestingly, the new Punjab Assembly will be having veterans like Ch Parvaiz Elahi, Ch Nisar Ali Khan and Khawaja Saad Rafique. Of these, Ch Nisar has never been part of the Punjab Assembly though he had been member of the National Assembly since 1988. Khawaja Saad has returned to the provincial legislature after 18 years. He was elected member Punjab Assembly for the first time in 1997. Saad had been member of the National Assembly from 2002 to 2018.

Hamza Shehbaz, who is set to assume the role of opposition leader, is a first timer in Punjab Assembly though he has been elected to the lower house of the Parliament thrice.

The new assembly will also be having some old timers like Rana Mohammad Iqbal, Mohsin Leghari, Basharat Raja, Saeed Akbar Niwani, Hussain Jahanian Gerdezi, Sardar Hasnain Bahadur Dareshak, Mazhar Abbass Rana, Naghma Mushtaq, Syed Hassan Murtaza, Ch Zaheeruddin, Samiullah Khan, Abdul Aleem khan, Mian Aslam Iqbal, Mehmoodur Rashid and Nishat Daha. 

Syed Ali Haider Gilani, son of ex-PM Yousaf Raza Gilani will also be a significant addition to the house. He was abducted just before 2013 elections by the Taliban during election campaign. He has been elected member Punjab Assembly for the first time.

Nawabzada Mansoor Ahmad Khan, son of Baba-e-Jamhoriat, Nawabzada Nusrullah Khan (late) has returned to the Punjab Assembly on PTI’s ticket after a long time. Interestingly, his younger brother Iftikhar Ahmad Khan was elected MNA from Muzaffargarh on PPP’s ticket in 2018 elections.

The new assembly will also be having Muhammad Moawia, son of Moulana Azam Tariq (late) as its member for the first time.

Also, the election for the slots of speaker and deputy speaker will take place on Thursday (tomorrow). The PTI has finalised the names of Ch Parvaiz Elahi and Dost Mohammad Mazari as its candidates for the offices of speaker and deputy speaker respectively. The PML-N has announced the name of Ch Mohammad Iqbal Gujjar from Gujrawala as its candidate for the office of speaker. Nawaz party has not yet finalised its candidate for the slot of deputy speaker.