The Punjab Assembly (PA) will go to vote on Sunday (tomorrow) to find the new leader of the house following Usman Buzdar’s resignation.
The development occurred after the session was held briefly today after four hours of delays and amid sloganeering from both opposition and treasury benches. The session was subsequently adjourned till 11:30 am.
According to the assembly secretary, nomination papers for the position could be submitted to his office till 5 pm today while their scrutiny would commence at 6 pm.
The voting process will be carried out through the parliamentary mode of open division of the house where members record their preference in registers placed at the doors leading to lobbies meant for treasury and opposition members.
Punjab Assembly Speaker Chaudhry Pervaiz Elahi, who is from the PML-Q but is the PTI’s candidate for the vacant chief minister slot, presided today’s session, while Hamza Shehbaz, the PML-N’s candidate, was also in attendance.
Elahi, upon his arrival at the assembly, responded in the affirmative when asked by reporters if he would be able to secure more votes in the battle for Punjab chief ministry.
On the other hand, Hamza said securing the chief ministry was not the ultimate purpose of the opposition’s efforts, adding that a roadmap would be built for the province’s overall betterment.
TAREEN FORMALLY SUPPORTS HAMZA: Later, while addressing a press conference in alongside Hamza, Punjab MPA Nauman Langrial formally announced Jahangir Khan Tareen (JKT) group’s support for the PML-N scion for the Punjab chief ministry.
He said the group — which comprises PTI dissidents — made its decision based on “honesty, sincerity and for the country’s sake”, adding that the group hoped Hamza would serve the province well.
Langrial said the group would “fully support” Hamza but also point out any “wrongdoings and try to stop them”.
The JKT group leader lashed out at outgoing chief minister Buzdar, alleging that he had promoted corruption and damaged the PTI.
In reply to a question, Langrial said that there was no “deal” behind the Tareen group’s decision to support Hamza.
“We have not discussed any demands or positions [with them]. None of us has demanded any seat,” he said.
Hamza, meanwhile, thanked the Tareen group for showing confidence in his leadership as well as that of Shehbaz Sharif and Nawaz Sharif.
The PML-N leader then turned his guns on the ruling PTI, alleging that it had turned Punjab into a “hub of corruption”.
“Instead of turning this country into a naya (new) Pakistan, they have buried old Pakistan under their incompetence and corruption,” he remarked.
He vowed to steer the province towards the “path of progress, where [erstwhile CM] Shehbaz Sharif had left it” before the PTI’s tenure.
Prior to the start of today’s session, 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 Punjab’s people 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.
The top ministerial slot of the largest province fell vacant with the acceptance of Punjab Chief Minister Usman Buzdar’s resignation by Governor Chaudhry Mohammad Sarwar on Friday, followed by an immediate summoning of the PA session for today in order to elect the new provincial chief.
However, Punjab Assembly Secretary Muhammad Khan Bhatti on Saturday said voting to elect the new Punjab 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.
He said the business advisory committee would meet today to decide when the chief minister would be elected.
The Punjab government had de-notified CM 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 presented 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 on the same day.
Following Buzdar’s resignation, the PTI had announced the PML-Q’s Chaudhry Pervez 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.
Elahi had also approached another disgruntled PTI group, commonly known as the Chheena group.
Elahi, meanwhile, also stepped up efforts to garner the support of disgruntled PML-N lawmakers in the provincial assembly. Several PML-N members, including Niaz Khan and Faisal Niazi, had called on Elahi and assured him of their support.