- Due to rejection of votes, PML-N's Hamza Shehbaz edges ahead
- 186 Punjab lawmakers had cast votes in favour of Pervaiz Elahi, while 179 cast their votes in favour of Hamza Shehbaz
Amid massive chaos and heated debate, Deputy Speaker of the Punjab Assembly Dost Muhammad Mazari rejected the votes cast by Pakistan Muslim League-Q (PML-Q), effectively handing back the seat of chief minister to Hamza Shehbaz on Friday. His announcement came after the vote-count at the crucial Punjab Assembly session to elect the new chief minister of the province, a sitting that began after a lengthy delay lasting nearly three hours.
The vote-count indicated that 186 votes were cast in favour of Chaudhry Pervaiz Elahi, while 179 in favour of Hamza Shehbaz.
However, after the deputy speaker – while citing a letter by Chaudhry Shujaat Hussain – rejected the votes of PML-Q, the vote-count was 179 in favour of Hamza, and 176 in favour of Pervaiz Elahi.
Mazari's ruling was countered by Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) MPA Raja Basharat, who said the law states that the parliamentary party could issue instructions to party members. “The head of the parliamentary party is Pervaiz Elahi,” he contended.
However, Mazari responded that the matter had been clarified by the Supreme Court, subsequently proroguing the session.
Earlier, lawmakers cast their votes to elect the new chief minister with the contest between PTI candidate Chaudhry Pervaiz Elahi and PML-N's Hamza Shehbaz.
While voting remained underway, reports suggested PML-Q Chairperson Chaudhry Shujaat Hussain had written a letter distancing himself from Elahi’s candidacy. The development comes after Pakistan Peoples Party's Asif Ali Zardari met Shujaat.
However, PML-Q's Moonis Elahi soon tweeted that a joint parliamentary meeting of PML-Q and PTI had unanimously agreed upon Pervaiz as their candidate for the election.
In a reaction to the development, PTI's Hammad Azhar said the "mandate of the people was killed".
"The law was openly violated," said Azhar.
Earlier, uncertainty increased as the Punjab Assembly session that was meant to begin at 4pm saw a delay with former information minister and senior PTI leader Fawad Chaudhry saying that "the unnecessary delay in the session of the provincial assembly was a clear violation of the Supreme Court’s orders".
The session, which according to Supreme Court orders was meant to begin at 4pm sharp, could not start even after a two-hour delay.
“Party lawyers have been asked to file a petition for contempt of court against the Deputy Speaker,” Fawad said in a tweet.
Soon after, PML-N Vice-President Maryam Nawaz said her party had not forgotten the treatment meted out to them, an apparent reference to the no-confidence vote that faced an incessant delay in April.
"Now, the rules of the game will be same for everyone, else PML-N knows how to play it better," she added.
Earlier in the day, lawmakers had begun arriving at the premises with PTI members looking hopeful for a victory.
The session comes just months after Hamza Shehbaz was elected CM of the province in April after securing 197 votes while PTI nominee Pervaiz Elahi boycotted the election.
The elections are crucial to decide the fate of politics in Punjab, historically an important stronghold for the PML-N that is leading the current coalition government in the centre. However, Sunday's by-polls, where main competitor PTI registered a resounding victory, are being seen as a setback for the PML-N.
The development comes in the backdrop of allegations hurled by PTI chairman who claimed that “up to Rs50 crores are being offered to buy MPAs”.
The former premier said that the alleged act was not only an "attack on democracy but also on the moral fabric of our society."
"Had the Supreme Court taken action and debarred these turncoats for life, it would have acted as a deterrent."
"Don't handlers of US regime-change conspiracy's imported govt realise severe damage being done to nation?" he asked.
On the other hand, Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) Co-Chairman Asif Ali Zardari, part of the coalition government, told Punjab chief minister candidate and Pakistan Muslim League-Q leader Pervaiz Elahi to snub Imran Khan and join him, warning that otherwise their political fight would turn into personal animosity.
Zardari conveyed his ‘ferocious’ message to Elahi through his elder brother PML-Q Chief Chaudhry Shujaat Hussain after his efforts to coax him to vote for Hamza failed in a meeting on Wednesday.
Zardari said that he persuaded the PML-N chief to nominate Elahi as the chief minister when PTI’s Usman Buzdar had stepped down ahead of the no-confidence motion against then-prime minister Imran Khan. He even conveyed a congratulatory message to Elahi on the development.
Separately, PTI's Fawad continued to express concerns over alleged "ongoing horse trading to manipulate the election" for the Punjab Chief Minister slot.
Fawad said that his party will approach the Supreme Court over the issue, adding that they had documentary evidence proving that horse trading was being done in the province.
"Democracy cannot work like this," Fawad said, warning that the development will have dire implications for the country.