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Sharifs win crucial Punjab battle

Elahi says Punjab IG acted on PM Shehbaz’s directives and police entered PA for the first time in history

At the heart of Lahore, the Punjab Assembly’s marvellous building presented the scene of a fortress on Saturday. The two sides in the House of 371 members remained indulged in a heavy fight for hours to win the crown of the biggest province of the country.

The war ended with the victory of Hamza Shahbaz, the joint candidate of the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) and the Pakistan People’s Party (PPP), who won the support of some two dozen dissidents of the former ruling party, the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI). Chaudhry Parvez Elahi, the PTI and the PML-Q candidate, left the battle zone along with his men during the last moments after seeing that things were not in his control. Elahi was thrashed, attacked by rivals and got his arm fractured.

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Elahi said that PML-N MPA Rana Mashood broke his hand. “During his (Shahbaz’s) exile, I took care of Hamza [Shahbaz] but today he showed his true face,” he said, adding this was Sharifs’ democracy, “who had crossed all limits”. He also accused Punjab Police Inspector General Rao Sardar Ali Khan of acting directly on Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif’s directives.

“He (Shehbaz) sent the IG to the House. Police can never enter the House. This has happened for the first time in the history of Pakistan,” he stated.

Prior to Chaudhry’s injury, the treasury benches (now opposition) attacked Deputy Speaker Dost Muhammad Mazari, the man whose powers were returned by the Lahore High Court (LHC) on Friday with the task to hold a free and fair election of the chief minister. Before the court order, Mazari was stopped from chairing the session by the speaker (CM candidate Elahi). Elahi said the court could not interfere in assembly proceedings.

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The PTI and the PML-Q sides labelled Mazari as a traitor who made a secret bargain and sold his loyalty to the opposite camp (the PML-N) to ensure the latter’s smooth sailing in the crucial polls. The deputy speaker claimed he was only loyal to the constitution.

Mazari called the police to control the situation. It happened for the first time in the history of Punjab Assembly that a force made an entry into the premises of the constitutional building.

The vote was a one-sided contest: Hamza received 197 votes and got elected as CM at 6:00pm. Elahi’s side boycotted. It was the third time since 1985 that the House of Gujrat made a quest to win Punjab CM-ship and failed. He, however, served on the top seat from 2002 to 2007 during the Pervez Musharraf regime.

The powerful Sharif family has given the third chief minister to Punjab. Hamza has served as opposition leader in the same assembly since 2018. The 47-year-old and son of Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif would certainly face no hurdle at the bureaucracy’s end to run the province. Many believe if you win the bureaucracy, you control Punjab, and by controlling Punjab one could control the Centre. His predecessor, Usman Buzdar, failed miserably to control the mighty babus in the three-and-a-half years, and the results are there.

After having the centre, Punjab was crucial for the Sharifs. The province played the key role in the 40-year history of their political survival. They can’t afford losing it.

The Sharifs entered into successful negotiations with dissidents of the PTI to win their loyalty. Let us see how Sharifs accommodate them for their own survival in politics as it is said loyalty can become a crushing weight, if not braced by a proper support. The biggest challenge for him is perhaps to ensure the PML-N victory in the coming polls in a situation when the rival PTI is posing the biggest threat to the long-time rulers of Punjab.

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