Governor Balighur Rehman (L) administers the oath to newly re-elected Chief Minister Hamza Shahbaz in Lahore on Saturday. Twitter photo
Tariq Butt, Correspondent
Punjab Governor Balighur Rehman on Saturday administered the oath to newly re-elected Chief Minister Hamza Shahbaz after a day of drama that ended with Chaudhry Parvez Elahi’s shock defeat in the contest for the slot as provincial assembly Deputy Speaker Dost Mazari decided not to count the votes of Pakistan Muslim League-Quaid (PML-Q) lawmakers.
Slogans of “one Zardari outweighs them all” were heard immediately after Hamza took the oath.
It is the second time that Hamza beat Elahi, a joint candidate of the former prime minister Imran Khan’s Pakistan Tehrik-e-Insaf (PTI) party, in the contest for the Punjab chief minister.
The last time he had secured victory was on April 16, but his oath-taking had been delayed for days with then-governor, Omer Sarfraz Cheema belonging to the Pakistan Tehrik-e-Insaf (PTI), refusing to administer the oath to him. Eventually, National Assembly Speaker Raja Pervaiz Ashraf administered the oath to him on April 30, following the directives of the Lahore High Court (LHC).
The run-off election for the chief minister was held on Friday in line with the Supreme Court’s order.
The session, which began hours after its scheduled time, saw Hamza being re-elected as the chief minister of Punjab by three votes after Deputy Speaker Mazari rejected all 10 votes cast by the PML-Q on the pretext that they had violated the orders of their party chief.
After counting the polled votes, the deputy speaker announced that Elahi bagged 186 votes, while Hamza could get just 179 votes. However, he had refrained from declaring Elahi the chief minister.
Instead, he had indicated that as party chief, Chaudhry Shujaat Hussain’s instruction to PML-Q members to vote for Hamza instead of Elahi held greater sway.
Drawing the attention of the house to a letter he received from the Chaudhry clan’s patriarch, said to contain directions for all 10 party lawmakers (including the candidate himself) to vote for PML-Nawaz candidate Hamza, he had said he personally phoned Shujaat Hussain to verify the contents of the message. “I called him and asked whether he had written the letter regarding instructions to party legislators, and he confirmed it thrice,” Mazari said.
In light of this conversation, he declared: “I disregard all 10 votes polled by PML-Q MPs as they violated the party president’s instructions, in line with the ruling of the Supreme Court”.
The ruling he referred to was issued on a presidential reference seeking the apex court’s opinion on Article 63-A — which pertains to the disqualification of lawmakers on grounds of defection – and said the votes of lawmakers defecting from the party were not to be counted. That petition had been filed by the PTI against its 25 defecting members of the Punjab Assembly in the earlier vote for the chief minister’s election in which Hamza Shehbaz had been elected.
The deputy speaker had subsequently announced that Hamza Shehbaz had won the election of the chief minister, since the 10 deducted votes reduced Elahi’s tally to 176, while Hamza Shehbaz remained on top with 179. The ruling was severely criticised by Elahi, his supporters and the PTI.
On May 20, the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) de-seated 25 dissident members of the provincial assembly of the PTI for voting for Hamza in the election against the orders of the party leadership.
Later the ECP allocated five reserved seats to the PTI and announced by-elections on the remaining 20 seats on July 17.
The PTI won 15 seats while PML-N got four seats and an independent candidate also won the election.
PML-Q member Basharat Raja objected to the deputy speaker’s decision to exclude votes, saying that it is against the constitution of the country because only a leader in the assembly can pass such orders to its members while Hussain is not the party leader in the house.
The PTI and PML both announced that they will go to the Supreme Court of the country to challenge the verdict made by the deputy speaker.