The Punjab Assembly session schedule to begin at 11 am on Saturday to elect new leader of the house has not yet started at around 1 pm.

The session was called in a hurry to elect the replacement of Chief Minister Usman Buzdar after Governor Muhammad Sarwar accepted his resignation on Friday night.

Punjab Assembly Speaker Chaudhry Pervaiz Elahi, who is from the PML-Q but is the PTI’s candidate for the vacant chief minister slot, has arrived at the assembly and so has Hamza Shehbaz — the PML-N’s candidate.

Speaking outside the assembly, PML-N leader Uzma Bukhari said that if voting takes place today then it would herald a return of the mandate which she claimed was “stolen” from the PML-N.

“Today, the mandate that was our right and given to us by the people of Punjab is going to be returned to us with Hamza Shehbaz’s success [in the chief minister vote],” she said.

Bukhari also lashed out at Elahi, alleging that he was trying to influence the vote. “This attempt of his won’t be successful,” she added.

However, Punjab Assembly Secretary Muhammad Khan Bhatti said voting to elect the new chief minister would not take place today.

Talking to the media in Lahore, Bhatti said only the schedule would be issued in today’s assembly session and “there will be no [other] proceeding.”

Bhatti did not give a reason why the voting would not be held today but did say that it was the assembly speaker’s right whether he set the vote for Sunday or Monday.

The Punjab government had de-notified Buzdar after the acceptance of his resignation but in the same notification allowed him “to continue to hold office until his successor enters upon the office”.

In an array of notifications, the provincial government had also denotified all the 37 provincial ministers, five advisers to the chief minister and five special assistants to the chief minister.

Buzdar had sent his resignation to Prime Minister Imran Khan on March 28 after a delegation of senior lawmakers had submitted a no-trust motion against him with Punjab Assembly Secretary Muhammad Khan Bhatti the same day.

Following Buzdar’s resignation, the PTI had announced PML-Q’s Chaudhry Pervaiz Elahi as its candidate for Punjab’s chief minister.

The move had come as the ruling party had stepped up efforts to ensure the support of its allies ahead of a no-trust vote against the premier, against the backdrop of multiple PTI allies joining the opposition.

The PML-Q, which is a crucial ally of the PTI government in Punjab and Centre, with 10 and five seats, respectively, had later confirmed its support for the ruling party.

To be elected as chief minister a candidate will need at least 186 votes in the 371-member house.

In the 371-member Punjab Assembly, the PTI has 183 lawmakers, PML-Q 10, PML-N 165, PPP seven, five are independent and one belongs to Rah-i-Haq.

In a bid to have at least these many lawmakers on his side, Elahi got in touch with the PTI’s disgruntled Jahangir Tareen group.

It is also learnt that Elahi had also approached another disgruntled PTI group, known as the Chheena group.

Elahi, meanwhile, also stepped up efforts to garner the support of disgruntled PML-N lawmakers in the provincial assembly. It is reported that several PML-N lawmakers, including Niaz Khan and Faisal Niazi, had called on Elahi and assured him of their support.

THE NUMBER GAME: The hurriedly called Punjab Assembly session had caught the opposition off-guard. The government and the opposition claimed to have the support of provincial lawmakers to secure the much-needed 186 votes in the 371-member house to occupy the top office in Punjab.

The PML-N finalised the name of Hamza Shehbaz after its approval by the party supremo.

The PTI camp, now led by Elahi, launched manoeuvrings and deep consultations with MPAs across the political divide. The ruling coalition camp was buzzing with activities ranging from meeting the visitors, calling different lawmakers and seeking time for PML-Q’s top leadership visit for their assured support.

The PTI and PML-Q also held their joint parliamentary meeting at the chief minister’s secretariat and showed a strength of over 150 MPAs, which included those belonging to the PML-N.

A senior PML-Q leader had said: “We have secured the assurance of MPAs to achieve the magic number of 186 votes to defeat the joint opposition in the chief minister’s election on Saturday (today).”

However, PML-N leader Rana Mashhood claimed that there was a rift amongst PTI legislators as many of them were annoyed how a party with only 10 MPAs could be given the CM’s slot.


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