History in the making in Punjab Assembly

LAHORE    –   History is in the making in the Punjab Assembly. Deputy Speaker Sardar Dost Mohammad Mazari is going to turn the clock back to the position of April 16 as the 40th Assembly session called by the then governor resumes today at 4 pm.

Unless otherwise stopped by a possible court intervention, the Assembly proceeding would start from the position as it was at the time of vote count after the polling was held for election of the Punjab Chief Minister on the said date.

As per directions of the Lahore High Court, the deputy speaker will resume the proceedings by directing the Assembly staff to recount the votes polled to Hamza Shehbaz on April 16 after subtraction of 25 votes cast by the PTI defectors. As the vote count will come down to 172 from the previous count of 197, the deputy speaker will announce a second round of poll declaring that none of the two candidates has obtained the majority of 186 votes.

At this point, Hamza Shehbaz will cease to be a chief minister and will be relegated to the position of an ordinary MPA. But he will become a candidate again for the top office like Ch Parvez Elahi who will no longer be an Assembly Speaker.

A run-off election will thus begin. The deputy speaker will order division of the House with supporters of the two candidates moving in the opposite directions. They will cast their votes at the two exit points manned by the Assembly staff performing election duty. This process may take an hour or so if it remains uninterrupted.

In the second round of the poll, a candidate obtaining a simple majority of the members sitting and voting is declared successful. Provincial Minister and Punjab government’s spokesperson Attaullah Tarar Thursday claimed majority in the House with 177 members to the PML-N’s side.

It may be recalled here that four independents-Jugnu Mohsin, Bilal Asghar Warriach, Qasim Khan and Ahmad Ali Aulak and one member of Rah-e-Haq party, Mohammad Moavia have already pledged support to Hamza Shehbaz. Three of the four PML-N dissidents are also back in the party fold. This brings the total strength of the ruling alliance to 176 as against 168 of the Opposition’s alliance. Even if notified, the five PTI members elected on reserved seats will not be allowed to cast vote in today’s election as per court order.

Speaker Punjab Assembly Ch Parvez Elahi Wednesday said that 11 MPAs of the Opposition were abroad and would not be able cast votes [in Friday’s election]. “We are going to challenge the LHC decision in the Supreme Court to seek more time for the chief minister’s election”, he said after attending a meeting of the opposition’s alliance held through video link and chaired by PTI chairman Imran Khan. PTI’s lawyers’ team was also part of this huddle.

Also, the parliamentary party meeting of the PML-N was held at a local hotel late Thursday night. Hamza Shehbaz chaired the meeting. As per sources, all the PML-N and PPP MPAs along with independents will be staying in the hotel for the entire night. They will come straight to the Assembly today directly from the hotel.

Meanwhile, the LHC has warned in its verdict that any person trying to disrupt the Assembly proceedings will be punished in contempt of court. So, the Assembly proceeding today is most likely to remain violence-free unlike the one held on April 16 when the deputy speaker was attacked by the violent lawmakers of the PTI and PML-Q. He was punched, dragged, and subjected to verbal abuses for the only sin that he turned up to conduct the CM’s election on the directions of LHC in a situation when his party had lost majority to elect its own chief minister.

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