LAHORE: The Friday ended with thrilling day at the end as PML-N and its Hamza Shehbaz won a dramatic victory against the PTI that few had predicted in the Punjab chief minister’s election, retaining the throne of Punjab after surviving its closest brush with loss in the political heartland.
Warmed in the nick of time by a letter from PML-Q head Chaudhry Shujaat Hussain, instructing his MPAs to vote for PML-N’s candidate, Hamza Shehbaz was declared a victor after Punjab Assembly Deputy Speaker Dost Mohammad Mazari ruled that PML-Q members’ votes were not counted in light of party head’s letter.
According to Mazari, Hamza received 179 votes whereas Elahi garnered 176 votes, but only after 10 votes of Elahi’s own party were not counted, which turned the tables in Hamza’s favour.
In line with the ruling of the Supreme Court of Pakitan judgment on Article 63-A related to the defection clause, the deputy speaker said he had rejected the votes of PML-Q lawmakers.
Ironically, the apex court’s verdict had served as the legal ground to trigger a second round of elections for the chief minister’s office. In accordance with the recipe ordered by the apex court, the run-off polls took place five days after the by-polls on 20 seats that fell vacant after the disqualification of PTI defectors who voted for Hamza, in a new, reconstituted House with a changed electoral college.
“As party president of PML-Q, I have directed my provincial members to vote for Hamza Shehbaz,” the deputy speaker read the letter received from Shujaat.
However, speaking on the floor of the house, PTI leader Raja Basharat challenged the deputy speaker’s ruling, saying as custodian of the house he could not reject the lawmakers’ votes.
“Chaudhary Shujaat is not authorized to prevent members from voting… he does not have the authority to stop any member,” he said.
Rejecting the objections of the PTI leader, the deputy speaker said he was performing his duties as per the orders of the Supreme Court of Pakistan, Tribune reported.
Mazari stressed that the law was “clear” and stated that the directives must be issued by the party leader. At this, Basharat, who was holding a copy of the Constitution in his hand, read out loud Article 63-A(1)(B).
The law states: “If a member of a Parliamentary Party composed of a single political party in a House, votes or abstains from voting in the House contrary to any direction issued by the Parliamentary Party.”
“We had a meeting of the parliamentary party yesterday and it was decided that votes will be cast in favour of Chaudhry Parvez Elahi,” Basharat asserted.
Nonetheless, Mazari said he had spoken to the PML-Q chief over the phone himself and the latter had confirmed the validity of the letter thrice. “He has given the letter as the party chief.”
He said he was simply following SCP’s orders. “Go and read the SCP’s verdict on defection.”
The deputy speaker proceeded to read out the ruling. “… I hereby disregard and exclude the votes of Chaudhry Parvez Elahi. As a consequence, Hamza Shehbaz Sharif is declared return candidate for the office of chief minister, having received majority votes of members present and voting.”
The session was subsequently prorogued.
The development came about in the wake of alleged behind-the-scenes parleys with political heavyweights, including PPP co-chairman and former president Asif Ali Zardari, swinging into action to make a last-ditch effort to salvage CM Hamza-led provincial government.
PML-Q leader Moonis Elahi later told the media that party president Chaudhry Shujaat Hussain has refused to back the PTI candidate — his cousin Pervez Elahi — for the slot of Punjab chief minister.
“I’ve lost and so has Imran Khan… Zardari has won,” he was quoted by a section of media as saying.
“No video statement has been recorded… I went to meet him [Chaudhry Shujaat] but he refused to record the video,” he said while speaking to a local TV channel.
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