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LAHORE: While the political game is on, the Punjab Assembly is set to elect its new leader of the House on Sunday (today) amid claims of enjoying majority by both the contestants.

Punjab Assembly Speaker Chaudhry Pervaiz Elahi is the candidate of the PTI, while Opposition Leader Hamza Shehbaz is the candidate of the joint opposition. The nomination papers submitted by the candidates were accepted.

The voting process will be carried out through the parliamentary mode of open division of the house where the members record their preference in registers placed at the doors leading to lobbies meant for the treasury and the opposition members.

In the 371-member Punjab Assembly, the PTI has 183 lawmakers, PML-Q 10, PML-N 165, PPP seven, five are independent and one belongs to Rah-i-Haq. The disgruntled factions of the ruling PTI, better known as the Jahangir Tareen and Chheena groups, are being considered a decisive factor in the Punjab chief executive’s election.

On Saturday, a session of the Punjab Assembly was held after four hours of delays amid sloganeering from both the opposition and the treasury benches. The session was subsequently adjourned till 11:30am on Sunday (today).

In the session chaired by Speaker Chaudhry Pervez Elahi, a panel of chairmen was announced while fateha was offered for the eternal peace of Rana Ijaz Ahmed Noon. The schedule for the election of CM was also announced.

The mediamen strongly reacted after they were not allowed entry in the Assembly. Former provincial minister Yasir Humayun also had a scuffle with the pressers. Even Federal Minister Shafqat Mehmood was not allowed to hold media talk. Sardar Usman Buzdar, who is allowed to work till new CM is inducted, on arrival to the Assembly assured media to look into the matter.

Upon his arrival at the Assembly session, Chaudhry Pervez Elahi responded in the affirmative when asked by the media if he would be able to secure more votes in the race for the Punjab CM.

On the other hand, Hamza Shehbaz said that securing the office of the Chief Minister was not the purpose of the opposition’s efforts. “We (joint opposition) are waging a just struggle for the people facing poverty, lawlessness, starvation and unemployment. With united efforts, a roadmap would be built for the Punjab’s overall betterment and providing ease in the lives of the people,” he said.

Later, Hamza Shehbaz visited the residence of JKT’s group MPA Nauman Langrial, to discuss matters concerning Provincial Assembly session on Sunday. Other members of the group were also present on the occasion.

Talking to the media, Nauman Langrial MPA formally announced that Jahangir Khan Tareen (JKT) group’s MPAs in the Punjab Assembly would support the PML-N candidate Hamza Shehbaz for the office of the Punjab Chief Minister. He made it clear that the JKT group, which comprises PTI dissidents, made its decision based on honesty, sincerity and for the country’s sake.

Langrial said that the group would fully support Hamza Shehbaz but also point out any wrongdoings and also try to stop them. He hoped that Hamza would serve the province well.

Lashing out the outgoing Chief Minister Sardar Usman Buzdar, Langrial alleged that he (Buzdar) had promoted corruption and damaged the PTI.

Responding to a question, Langrial said that there was no deal behind the Tareen group’s decision to support Hamza. “We have not discussed any demands or positions [with them]. None of us has demanded any seat,” he said.

Hamza expressed gratitude to the Tareen group for reposing confidence in his leadership as well as that of Shehbaz Sharif and Nawaz Sharif. Criticising the PTI, he alleged that it had turned Punjab into a hub of corruption. “Instead of turning the country into a naya (new) Pakistan, they have buried old Pakistan under their incompetence and corruption,” he remarked.

Hamza vowed to steer the province towards the path of progress, where Shehbaz Sharif had left it before the PTI’s tenure.

Earlier, prior to the start of Saturday’s session, PML-N leader Uzma Bukhari said, “Today, the mandate that was our right and given to us by Punjab’s people is going to be returned to us with Hamza Shehbaz’s success.”

She lashed out at Pervez Elahi, alleging that he was trying to influence the vote. “This attempt will not be successful,” she added.

Punjab Assembly Secretary Muhammad Khan Bhatti told the media that the schedule would be issued in today’s Assembly session and there will be no proceeding.

On the other hand, the PTI camp, now led by Elahi, entered into consultations and maneuverings with MPAs across the political divide. The PTI and PML-Q also held their joint parliamentary meeting.

A PML-Q leader on the condition of anonymity claimed that they have secured the assurance of MPAs to achieve the magic number of 186 votes to defeat the joint opposition in the Chief Minister’s election.

However, PML-N leader Rana Mashhood claimed that there was a rift amongst PTI legislators as many of them were annoyed how a party with only 10 MPAs could be given the CM’s slot.

Copyright Business Recorder, 2022

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