Ruckus mars Punjab Assembly as opposition challenges Elahi to ‘show numbers’Pakistan
The Punjab Assembly (PA) session witnessed pandemonium on Monday as the opposition challenged Chief Minister Parvez Elahi to prove he had the requisite numbers to secure a vote of confidence.
The demand came even though the agenda for today’s session, which began after a two-hour delay, excluded the process for the vote of confidence.
Punjab Governor Balighur Rehman had on Dec 19 declared that in his opinion the chief minister did not enjoy the support of a majority of the house so the latter must take a vote of confidence after 48 hours on Dec 21, and directed that a sitting of the assembly be summoned for the purpose.
When Elahi defied the direction, the governor de-notified the CM, who then challenged the action in the Lahore High Court (LHC). The court issued a stay order against the de-notification and fixed Jan 11 as the next date for hearing the case.
The PTI, part of the ruling coalition in Punjab along with Elahi’s PML-Q, had decided the CM should take the vote of confidence before the court hearing so he could dissolve the assembly as soon as the LHC decided the case in his favour.
However, as the opposition claimed to have made inroads into the ruling Punjab coalition and poached some ruling lawmakers to achieve a majority in the house, Elahi decided not to take the trust vote, arguing the governor’s order to the effect was illegal and unconstitutional.
The chief minister also eventually managed to convince Imran against it, who had directed his party’s MPAs to resign en masse if Elahi didn’t take the vote as per plan. They both agreed that the trust vote would be taken only if the court directed them to do so.
PA Speaker Sibtain Khan chaired today’s session which was also attended by Interior Minister Rana Sanaullah, PTI Secretary General Asad Umar and PML-N leader Attaullah Tarar.
Pandemonium broke out as the treasury benches chanted slogans against the interior minister while the opposition tore up copies of the agenda. At one point, opposition lawmakers also surrounded the speaker’s dais.
Speaking in the assembly amid the ruckus, PML-N lawmaker Rana Mashhood termed the proceedings to be unconstitutional, saying that members of the Punjab cabinet were not present and the session was in contravention of the directives issued by the court.
He claimed that the government was in minority in the House and January 11 was the date of its departure. “Show us that your numbers are complete. It is our challenge.”
Responding to the MPA, the PA speaker questioned how the session could be called “unconstitutional” when the matter was still being debated in court. He said CM Elahi would seek a vote of confidence when the time came.
Meanwhile, 22 bills were presented during the session, of which 21 were passed.
Speaking to the media after the session, the interior minister said that if the government claimed to possess a majority in the PA, then showing it possessed the requisite numbers was a simple matter.
“On one hand, Imran Khan is insisting on seeking the confidence vote before January 11 and on the other, Elahi is resisting.”
Sanaullah claimed that the government did not have the support of 186 lawmakers, claiming that the number was probably close to 174. He further said that the opposition had 179 members, all of whom were present.
The interior minister said it was possible the opposition’s composition could increase to 180 lawmakers with the return of a dissident lawmaker.
He asserted that Elahi was no longer the chief minister and demanded the chief minister resign.
PTI Vice President Fawad Chaudhry said that if the opposition had the numbers then it should have attempted to stop the bills that were passed by the PA today.
Separately, PTI Secretary General Asad Umar criticised the behaviour of PML-N MPAs and questioned how long such a state of affairs could continue.
Talking to the media in Lahore after the session, Umar said the government would not be compelled to seek the vote on the wishes of the opposition and would hold it when the need arose or when the party deemed it necessary.
Umar also alleged that the party’s lawmakers in Punjab and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa were receiving phone calls but to “no effect”.