The joint opposition on Wednesday ‘elected’ Leader of the Opposition in the Punjab Assembly Hamza Shahbaz as the new chief minister (CM) of the province in a ‘symbolic’ session held at a local hotel in Lahore.
Wednesday remained a dramatic day as the Punjab Assembly Secretariat refused to hold the session despite Deputy Speaker Sardar Dost Muhammad Mazari’s notification in this regard. Instead of holding the session, the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) government moved a no-trust motion against its own deputy speaker, who was also denied entry to the Punjab Assembly when he reached there to chair the session.
Later, Punjab Assembly Speaker Chaudhry Parvez Elahi, who is also the government’s candidate for the slot of the CM, took back the powers from Mazari to chair the session. The assembly building was also sealed off with barbed wires, and its main gate was locked.
After being denied the entry into the assembly, the joint opposition reached a local hotel in buses to hold a ‘symbolic’ session for the election of the chief minister.
Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) Vice President Maryam Nawaz, along with her cousin Hamza, led the MPAs to the hotel where a large number of party workers were already present.
The ‘symbolic’ session was chaired by Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) lawmaker Shazia Abid – who was appointed to the panel of chairmen for the 40th session of the assembly – while 200 MPAs were present. The proceedings were conducted in the same way as it used to be held in the house. Special seats were given to the MPAs of the Tareen group, Aleem Khan group and Asad Khokhar group, while PPP Parliamentary Leader Syed Hassan Murtaza and the parliamentary leader of Rah-e-Haq party were given seats in the front row.
The session passed a unanimous resolution, condemning the act of Speaker Chaudhry Parvez Elahi who denied entry to both journalists and MPAs into the Punjab Assembly. “This session condemns the dictatorial act of Parvez Elahi as he made the Punjab Assembly a ‘no-go area’,” said the resolution passed by the MPAs. They also condemned the actions taken against Deputy Speaker Mazari.
Later, the process to elect the chief minister began in which Hamza got 199 votes. He was congratulated by those present in the session amid full-throated sloganeering.
Maryam Nawaz got emotional and broke into tears when she congratulated her cousin, Hamza. The media was also invited to count the members and the figure was 199. The votes of 186 MPAs were required to elect the chief minister of Punjab. PML-N Information Secretary Marriyum Aurangzeb shared a video of the two PML-N scions greeting and congratulating each other.
In his speech, Hamza said the constitution was being bulldozed both in the Centre and in Punjab. “The man who took the oath of being the custodian of the House closed the doors of the Punjab Assembly for the MPAs,” he said, referring to Parvez Elahi. He also appealed to the apex court to intervene and take notice of what was going on in Punjab.
Later, talking to the media, Maryam Nawaz said the PML-N had taken back its mandate that was stolen in 2018. Criticising Imran Khan, she said that he had become the first civilian dictator of Pakistan who abrogated the constitution. “I have a lot of respect for Parvez Elahi but he is supporting a man who abrogated the constitution,” she said. Addressing Elahi, Maryam said that he had “lost today”. She also said that it was not a symbolic session but a constitutional and legal one. Maryam also urged the people of Punjab to stand up for their rights.
Meanwhile, talking to the media, Deputy Speaker Sardar Dost Muhammad Mazari said that an assembly session could be called anywhere.
He said he had consulted legal experts who advised him to carry out the chief minister’s election “immediately” on Wednesday. Mazari alleged the Parvez Elahi and his staff were afraid that he would create a dangerous situation for them.
He said he had exercised his authority in accordance with the constitution, as the biggest province of Pakistan was without a chief minister.
It is pertinent to mention that during a Supreme Court hearing earlier in the day, Chief Justice of Pakistan Umar Ata Bandial was told that the Punjab Assembly staff were not following the directives of the deputy speaker. At this, he had remarked that if the system was not cooperating then constitutional officeholders could use their rights. “The deputy speaker can call the session in Bagh-i-Jinnah if he wants,” he said.
However, a Punjab Assembly spokesperson said in a statement that the deputy speaker could not preside over a session of the assembly after the submission of a no-confidence motion against him.