Parvez Elahi retains Punjab’s top post after ‘high drama’

By
Azam Malik
|
Web Desk
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  • Chief minister gets 186 votes.
  • Opposition boycotts session.
  • PTI plans to dissolve assembly soon.


LAHORE: Chief Minister Parvez Elahi won the much-awaited confidence vote in the Punjab Assembly Wednesday night after lawmakers sitting on the treasury benches entrusted their trust in him, with the opposition boycotting the session in protest after tearing up the agenda copies.

The provincial chief executive took the confidence vote after the Lahore High Court (LHC) ruled that the governor had the authority to ask the chief minister to seek the trust of the house even during an ongoing session.

The court, earlier today, had said that the chief minister should have the support of 186 lawmakers — the required number for being elected as the CM — round the clock.

A total of 186 members of the provincial assembly (MPAs) voted in support of Elahi as the chief minister on a resolution moved by Punjab Minister Mian Aslam Iqbal and Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) leader Raja Basharat.

The opposition boycotted the session, claiming that the pre-requisite legal requirements were not met and that Punjab Governor Baligh-Ur-Rehman's order of vote of confidence was sub judice.

Interior Minister Rana Sanaullah — talking to journalists outside the assembly — said some lawmakers from the treasury benches were not in the country, but still, the PTI claimed that their MPAs attended the session. "Therefore, we will present all their travel records and relevant documents in the court tomorrow."

The court had granted the relief to CM Elahi till January 12 (today), and it will take up his petition against Rehman's de-notifying order in the morning.

After winning the house's confidence, Elahi thanked the leaders of PTI, Majlis Wahdat-e-Muslimeen (MWM), and MPA Bilawal Waraich for supporting him during today's session.

The chief minister slammed the PML-N for its "hue and cry" and asked the party to accept defeat. "I stand with Imran Khan's vision and we have restricted thieves to their homes now."

The chief minister also thanked his leagal for proving that the governor's orders to de-notify him were "illegal. "I thank Allah that I received 186 votes. Today, PML-N literally received a 'surprise' that they did not expect."

"There is only one leader: Imran Khan," he stressed.

Following the session, PTI Senior Vice President Fawad Chaudhry said that if there are no hindrances going forward, then the party will move towards dissolving the assembly.

'Our MPAs were tempted with money'

In his address to the party's parliamentarians earlier today, PTI Chairman Imran Khan alleged that his party members and allies were threatened to join the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N).

“Our members were tempted with money,” he claimed.

The deposed prime minister also claimed that Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) Co-chairperson Asif Ali Zardari could not go among the masses and he “came to Lahore for trading”, Khan’s apparent reference to horse-trading.

“I am proud of our members from Punjab. They have rejected Zardari and it was an utter failure for him,” the PTI chief said.

Khan added that Zardari should be thanked because he helped the party get cleansed from the black sheep.

Chaotic session continues for third day

Before the opposition's walkout, ruckus gripped the assembly during the third consecutive session, with the PML-N members chanting slogans against the ruling government in the province, and at one point, the lawmakers even exchanged blows.

Targeting CM Elahi, lawmakers of the opposition continuously yelled “take a vote of confidence” and stood in front of Punjab Assembly’s Speaker Sibtain Khan’s dias.

“Take a vote of confidence today,” the members demanded continuously, after which the speaker requested them to take their seats.

As the chants got louder, the speaker said: "Opposition members should remain in their seats. Your senior leadership knows about your protest"

“I’m saying for the 15th time, take your seats. Else I’ll take action according to the Constitution,” he said warning opposition lawmakers.

Meanwhile, Parliamentary Affairs Minister Raja Basharat tried to convince the opposition to calm down.

Lawmakers Mirza Javed, Unaiza Fatima, and Mian Rauf were requested to take their seats. While PTI members Sadia Sohail Rana, Seemabia Tahir and Sania Kamran raised slogans against the opposition.

PML-N member Raheela Khadim Hussain refused to talk during the question break. “The governor has expressed distrust in the chief minister,” she said while requesting CM Elahi to first take the vote of confidence from the assembly.

The speaker told her that the government will take the vote of confidence. “Let the high court decide,” he said.

“If they don’t take the vote of confidence, they won’t remain in the government,” Speaker Sibtain said, asking the opposition to initiate a vote of no-confidence for a “decision”.

Members on the opposition benches then raised slogans yelling “dacoit, dacoit” when referring to CM Elahi.

When the call to prayer began, the speaker ruled for the members to calm down. “Azan is being called, fear Allah,” he said.

Political drama

The political turmoil in Punjab heightened last month when the ruling coalition in the centre decided to remove CM Elahi in a bid to stop the dissolution of the assembly.

In his bid to oust the chief minister, the governor — a member of the PML-N — had ordered the CM to take a vote of confidence at 4pm on December 21.

But Punjab Assembly Speaker Sibtain — a PTI leader — termed the order against the Constitution and adjourned an ongoing session till Friday — which resumed today.

In response, the governor disagreed with the speaker and rejected his reasonings for not summoning a session. He added that the ruling has "no bearing" on the order to hold a session for the confidence vote.

Following this, in a notification issued in the wee hours of December 23, the governor de-notified Elahi as the chief minister, citing his reluctance to take a vote of confidence.

Rehman said that since he believes that Elahi does not command the confidence of the Punjab Assembly, he was de-notifying him as the chief minister and also dissolving the provincial cabinet.

But the PTI and PML-Q alike rejected the notification and moved the LHC against it. Following this, the court reinstated Elahi and adjourned the hearing till January 11.

When the LHC took up the petition on Wednesday, it said the governor, during an ongoing session of the provincial assembly, was authorised to set a date for the chief minister to take a vote of confidence, which the latter would be bound to comply with.