PML-N leader Hamza Shehbaz has been elected the Punjab chief minister amid boycott by PML-Q and PTI lawmakers in a controversial session of the Punjab Assembly marred by violence and delays.
Deputy Speaker Dost Muhammad Mazari announced the results following the tumultuous session saw government MPAs attacking him, and the government's chief minister candidate Pervez Elahi ending up bruised and battered in an altercation with opposition lawmakers.
Mazari, annoncing the results, stated that Hamza Shehbaz bagged 197 votes in the 371-seat Punjab Assembly, while Pervez Elahi received no votes as PTI and PML-Q lawmakers opted to stay away from proceedings when voting took place.
Leader of the House
Following his election, Hamza Shehbaz reiterated that his party will not engage in "politics of vengeance" while addressing the House.
He also expressed gratitude to his party members and allies - including Aleem Khan, Jahangir Tareen and others - for their support while hailing the election of the new cheif minister a victory for democracy.
Hamz said that what transpired during the Punjab Assembly proceedings, including the violence on display, was unacceptable, and condemning the violation of the sanctity of the House as well as the treatment meted out to its custodian.
He also fired a broadside at PM Imran, with the chief minister-elect accusing Imran Khan of playing fast and loose with Pakistan's foreign policy that has "also resulted in upsetting China".
Chaos in the assembly
The session was already delayed by over five hours amid chaotic scenes, resulting in Punjab police's anti-riot force and Rangers entering the House to bring the situation under control, while escorting lawmakers to safety. Four lawmakers have also been taken into custody for assaulting the deputy speaker.
The session, which was scheduled to commence at 11:30 am, finally got underway around 5:30pm. However, PTI and PML-Q opted not to return to the session as voting commenced and PML-N's Hamza Shehbaz expected to win the election for the coveted post of Punjab chief minister.
The prelude to the chaotic scenes was PTI and PML-Q MPAs storming the speaker's dais when Mazari arrived there. His security tried to save him from the assault but the provincial lawmakers continued to attack the deputy speaker. The video showed that security guards rescued Mazari to the backside of the House amidst the lawmakers' assault.
"Elahi's hooligans to blame"
Talking to reporters outside, PML-N leader Attaullah Tarar demanded of the Punjab IG ensure order, adding that the opposition did not disturb the decorum of the house. "We will stay peaceful but please stop this bloodshed here. Since yesterday, we are raising our voices for a peaceful election that there are risks to law and order," he said and accused the "hooligans" of PML-Q's Chaudhry Pervez Elahi for creating chaos in the assembly.
Tarar called for suspending the membership of such lawmakers who caused trouble in the House. "These lawmakers should be dismissed from the House who manhandled the deputy speaker and tortured people," he said and claimed that they would also harm women MPAs.
He accused Parvez of hatching conspiracies by not allowing press in over three years of his tenure as the speaker. He further described the incident as the "darkest day for democracy".
To a query, he said there were 198 opposition members and the treasury benches had less than 170 members. He was of the view that the situation would only be controlled when the Lahore High Court chief justice would take suo motu notice on this.
Marred by delays
The Punjab Assembly, which was summoned on Saturday to elect the new chief minister, has been delayed. The august house was scheduled to meet at 11:30am after the provincial court ordered the deputy speaker on Friday to conduct the election on April 16.
The united opposition's MPAs -- including the PTI dissidents -- had arrived at the assembly through the bus and they had a meeting in the chamber. According to Aaj News, Hamza was accompanied by PTI estranged leader Aleem Khan on the bus. Moreover, sources said the PTI has so far not managed to complete even the number of 189, which PML-Q's Parvez had earlier claimed, as they met for a parliamentary party meeting ahead of the vote.
The Lahore High Court on Friday dismissed the petition of PML-Q and asked Deputy Speaker Dost Muhammad Mazari to conduct the election for the new CM in a “transparent and impartial” manner on April 16.
Both the contenders for the coveted slot, PTI’s nominated candidate Chaudhry Parvez Elahi and united opposition Hamza Shehbaz, have claimed to have the required number to win the election. According to the assembly rules, a candidate will need at least 186 votes in the 371-member house.
Aaj News reported that PTI's parliamentarians reached the House having lotas in their hands in protest against "turncoats". According to the rules, lawmakers are not allowed to bring such materials to the assembly. However, such practices have also been seen in the past as parliamentarians have the right to protest.
Anchorperson Shaukat Paracha told Aaj News that all provincial departments are responsible for maintaining order. "The speaker and deputy speaker also did not face the vote of no-confidence," he said, claiming that PML-Q's Parvez had decided to side with the government despite having offers from the opposition.
"In our Constitution, a way out is also mentioned for people who violate party line," he said.
Process of voting
The MPAs would cast the vote through a show of hand and move to the separate galleries set for the candidates.
'Hope for transparent election'
Punjab Assembly Deputy Speaker Dost Mazari told reporters outside the assembly that hopefully election would be held on Saturday and the result would also be announced. Media persons would witness the session both outside and inside the House, he added.
He rebuffed allegations pertaining to taking bribes from the united opposition.
“I will conduct the session smoothly and as per the rules of the assembly,” he said and warned against creating any panic situation. He added that every MPA -- including the dissidents -- would be allowed to cast vote under Article 63 of the Consitution.
"We will not compromise on security," he said while talking about his meeting with the Punjab IG on Friday.
Moreover, Chaudhry Parvez Elahi -- PTI's nominated candidate for the Punjab CM election -- expressed hope for a transparent election.
“If our numbers were not complete… so what do you think what has been happening for the past many days… how it could have been,” he told reporters upon arriving at the assembly.
“Today I am not custodian but today it will be clear who is the custodian and what is their conduct,” he said, “Time and his action will prove whether the deputy speaker is honest or sitting at the chair with some other intentions.”
Parvez claimed that the conditions were not favourable to “good intentions.”
Furthermore, PML-N leader Malik Ahmed Khan expressed hope that the election would be conducted constitutionally and lawmakers would conduct it “maturity”.
United opposition’s candidate for the Punjab CM election Hamza Shehbaz said that they would try to maintain working relations with other provinces.
“The public is among our priorities and will work towards good governance in the province,” he told reporters.
According to the PML-N leader Khalil Tahir Sandhu, the united opposition has the support of 203 parliamentarians for the election of the coveted slot.
Talking to the media, he said that the PTI dissidents would also vote in favour of their candidate.
Section 144 imposed
At the request of the Lahore district commissioner, the provincial home department has imposed Section 144 in the surroundings of the Punjab Assembly to deal with emergency situations. Moreover, a heavy contingent of police and Rangers personnel has been deployed outside the assembly to ensure order.
As per the list of today’s business, the sitting of the assembly is to be held on Saturday, April 16, 2022, at 11:30am and the election of CM will be held under Article 130 of the Constitution.
Lahore District Commissioner Umer Sher Chatta had also arrived at the assembly to review the security arrangements.
Furthermore, banners and posters of both the candidates have been posted en route to the assembly.
This time, the Punjab Assembly deputy speaker has allowed media persons for coverage as last time the latter was not allowed to enter the House.
A division bench of the Lahore High Court on Friday dismissed the petition of PML-Q and asked Punjab Assembly Deputy Speaker Dost Muhammad Mazari to conduct the election for the new Punjab CM in a transparent and impartial manner on April 16 (today), Business Recorder reported.
The bench further directed the deputy speaker to facilitate national/international observers, media persons, representatives of PILDAT, Fafen and other organizations during the election.
The bench comprising Justice Shujaat Ali Khan and Justice Jawad Hassan ordered the Chief Secretary and the inspector general of police to ensure a foolproof security plan for the day of the election.
IGP Rao Sardar Ali, present in the court, stated that all possible measures had been taken for the safe and smooth arrival of the MPAs to the assembly whereas the internal security was to be catered for by the secretary of the assembly in coordination with the security staff.
Chief Secretary Kamran Ali Afzal, said all the departments had been directed to facilitate the election for the leader of the house of the provincial assembly.
The bench observed that in the event of any complaint by any side, rapid action shall be taken against the delinquents.
The bench observed that since the speaker is unable to preside over the assembly due to his contesting for the post of Chief Minister, therefore, the deputy speaker shall exercise the powers of the speaker in terms of section 53(3) of the Constitution for holding of elections going to be held on April 16.
It remarked that Pervez Elahi, the speaker, having submitted nomination papers to contest against the portfolio of the Chief Minister, is unable to perform his functions as speaker, thus, Dost Muhammad Mazari, the deputy speaker, by the operation of law assumed the role of the Speaker.
The bench observed that a bird’s eye view over the rules makes it vividly clear that question relating to conduct of the session of the assembly through the panel of chairmen only arises when the Speaker or the Deputy Speaker are not present due to any reason.
And during presence of the Deputy Speaker the matter cannot be referred to the panel of chairmen at the whims of the appellants, the bench adds.
The bench remarked, “It is very strange to note that on the one hand the appellants are of the view that this court cannot intrude into the internal affairs of the assembly but on the other are pressing hard for passing an order in violation of the Rules, 1997.”
Rejecting another argument of the appellants, the bench stated that since the motion of no confidence is not being considered against the Deputy Speaker in the session of the assembly, scheduled on April 16, he cannot be considered incompetent to preside over the said session.