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Efforts afoot to get Elahi elected as Punjab CM

Chaudhrys have approached various disgruntled PML-N lawmakers in the provincial assembly

After the resignation of Usman Buzdar, the Punjab governor has summoned the provincial assembly’s session today to get Parvez Elahi elected as the new chief minister of the province.

Hailing from a powerful political family, Parvez Elahi is likely to become new chief executive of Punjab, as he was nominated by Prime Minister Imran Khan on Monday amid the recent political turmoil developed in the country after the no-confidence motion of the opposition.

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Despite having the support of a very low number of candidates in the provincial assembly, Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf is hopeful to get the Pakistan Muslim League-Quaid’s Elahi elected as head of the province. From the House of 371 members, Elahi will need at least 186 votes to become the chief minister. Currently, PTI is the leading party in the House with 183 members, followed by 165 of Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz, 10 of PML-Q, seven of Pakistan People’s Party (PPP), five independents and one member of the Pakistan Rah-e-Haq party. Looking at the numbers, it seems very hard for Elahi to grab the office of the CM, as a faction of PTI has already announced not to stand behind the Chaudhrys of Gujrat. However, the Chaudhrys have geared up their efforts to grab the support of required lawmakers in the assembly.

According to media reports, Chaudhrys have approached various disgruntled PML-N lawmakers in the provincial assembly, while multiple PML-N lawmakers, including Niaz Khan and Faisal Niazi, called on Elahi and assured him of their support. Meanwhile, Elahi also contacted PTI’s disgruntled parliamentarians from Jahangir Tarin group to convince them to support Imran Khan in the no-confidence motion and him for the office of the chief minister.

Currently serving as the Punjab Assembly speaker, Elahi had already served in the same capacity in 1997, while during 2002-08 he served as the chief minister of the largest province.

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Born in 1945 in a powerful Jutt family of Gujrat, he was groomed in a highly political environment as his uncle Chaudhry Zahoor Elahi remained active in politics since the partition of India. Elahi, along with his cousin, Chaudhry Shujaat Hussain, carried forward the legacy of late Chaudhry Zahoor Elahi and remained deep-rooted in national politics. He stepped into practical politics in 1983, and was elected as the chairman of the district council of Gujrat.

Later, he became a member of the Punjab Assembly during the non-party basis elections of 1985. He again became an MPA in 1988, 1990 and 1993 on the ticket of Islami Jamhuri Ittehad (IJI), led by Nawaz Sharif, who later formed his party – Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz. In 1997, Elahi got elected as an MPA on the PML-N ticket and was chosen as the speaker of the House.

Differences emerged between Chaudhrys and the leadership of the PML-N over the office of chief minister. According to reports, PML-N leadership had promised Chaudhrys to make Elahi the CM of Punjab, but later the office was given to Shehbaz Sharif. Soon after General (r) Pervez Musharraf toppled Nawaz’s government, the Chaudhrys announced their own party, the Pakistan Muslim League-Quaid (PML-Q). The party stood behind Musharraf and legitimized dictatorship in the country. In the outcome of the general elections of 2002, the PML-Q became the largest party in the Centre and the Punjab Assembly, and Elahi won for the seventh time as a member of the provincial assembly. He was then elected as the chief minister of the province.

During his tenure, scores of projects for the welfare of the province were initiated and they are still considered revolutionary in the history of the province. Emergency service 1122, traffic warden system, enhancement of literacy rate in the province, establishment of BHUs, RHCs, and the upgradation of hospitals and other facilities are considered the best steps taken by him. The Chaudhrys are famous for their negotiating tactics and know how to ‘play’ the politics and subsequently remain in power.

After the assassination of Benazir Bhutto, when the PML-Q was nearly eliminated from the country, Elahi succeeded in winning the seat of National Assembly in 2008. Despite huge differences with the PPP, and with a meager position in the National Assembly, Elahi was made the federal minister of industry under the premiership of Yousaf Raza Gilani. Moreover, he was not just a federal minister but a special post of deputy prime minister was created for the first time in the history of Pakistan only to ‘adjust’ Elahi.

He again became a member of the National Assembly in 2013, and won two seats of National Assembly and one in Punjab Assembly in the elections of 2018. His party decided to become an ally of the PTI in the federal and province. With five seats in the National Assembly, his party enjoyed two ministries in the Centre. With seven seats in Punjab, the PML-Q was awarded the portfolio of two ministries as well as the powerful slot of speaker of the House.

Though the PTI leadership has nominated Elahi as the chief minister, a faction within the party is not ready to put weight behind him. As the Chaudhrys are famous for negotiating and convincing even the rivals, they are hopeful of grabbing the support of the required members.

If Elahi succeeds in becoming the chief minister of Punjab, he would be in a better position to convince the disgruntled PTI lawmakers to support Imran Khan in the no-confidence motion.

On the other hand, the opposition in Punjab is yet to finalize its candidate for the post of the chief minister. However, PML-N MNA Javed Latif in an interview had said that Hamza Shahbaz or PTI’s disgruntled MPA Aleem Khan might be the candidates of the joint opposition.

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