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Opposition mulls over fielding its own candidate against Elahi

Aleem Khan and Hamza Shahbaz being considered for the post of chief minister

The opposition is mulling over fielding its own candidate against Punjab Assembly Speaker Chaudhry Pervaiz Elahi in the election for the leader of the House, as he has been nominated by the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) to head the largest province of the country.

According to sources, Pakistan Muslim League Nawaz (PML-N), the largest opposition party, is considering two names, Hamza Shahbaz and PTI’s disgruntled leader Aleem Khan, against Elahi for the slot of Punjab chief minister. The PML-Q leader and incumbent Punjab Assembly Speaker Pervaiz Elahi was nominated as Punjab CM by the ruling PTI the other day while taking resignation from Usman Buzdar. Elahi will have to take 186 votes in the House of 371 to become the Punjab CM, while his own party PML-Q has just 10 MPAs, including Elahi himself. In the House, the PTI is the largest party with 183 MPAs, followed by 165 MPAs of PML-N, while the PPP has seven members. There are five independent MPAs in Punjab Assembly, while one MPA belongs to the Rah-e-Haq party.

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“The ruling PTI isn’t in a good position in Punjab as it has different factions, including Tareen group, Aleem Khan group, Chheena group and now another group will emerge after the ouster of Buzdar,” a senior PML-N leader told this scribe. A large number of MPAs hailing from the PTI will not accept Elahi as chief minister and they will not vote for him, he added. Tareen’s group consists of around a dozen MPAs, while Aleem Khan also claims to enjoy the support of a similar number of lawmakers. Chheena group led by MPA Ghazanfar Chheena also has the support of seven to eight MPAs and now the Buzdar group will also emerge that consists of most of the MPAs from southern Punjab. Sources further claimed that the PML-N has assured the joint opposition that 29 MPAs hailing from the PTI will remain absent on the day of voting that will go in the favour of the opposition. Although Elahi got 201 votes the day when he became Punjab Assembly speaker in 2018, it was the time when there was no defection within the PTI. Then, Elahi managed to get 16 more votes than Buzdar, but it will be a daunting task for him to reach the same tally this time.

Sources said that it is highly likely that PML-N will play on Aleem Khan keeping in view his strained ties with Elahi. It is pertinent to mention here that Aleem Khan used to consider himself the most suitable candidate for Punjab CM within the PTI when the party came into power in 2018, but severe objections were raised to his name by Elahi who used to be his boss when he was the Punjab CM in 2002, as Aleem Khan was his cabinet member. Imran Khan then decided not to go for Aleem Khan to avoid confrontation with the PML-Q that was his close ally both in Punjab and Centre. Aleem Khan has also held meetings with Nawaz Sharif in London where he narrated the stories of injustices done to him by his own party.

It may be noted here that the fate of Elahi is also dependent on the result of a no-confidence motion against Imran Khan. If Imran Khan doesn’t survive in National Assembly then it will be further complicated for Elahi to get the votes of PTI’s MPAs in the Punjab Assembly. The changes in Punjab and the Centre are interlinked and the picture will be clear in a couple of days.

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