Punjab to elect its CM today in a ‘neck and neck’ poll

Pervaiz Elahi and Hamza Shahbaz to duke it out for the Punjab hot seat in high-drama election

The day has finally arrived when the Punjab assembly elects its new provincial chief executive. The polls have taken on a new meaning following Sunday’s by-polls where the ruling Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz failed to secure a controlling lead in the province, causing high-end political drama and immense political uncertainty in the province.

The winner of today’s poll, whether it is the coalition-backed Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz’s (PML-N) Hamza Shahbaz, or the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) backed Pakistan Muslim League-Quaid (PML-Q) leader Pervaiz Elahi, will not only signify who leads the province but will also set the stage for deciding Pakistan’s political future.

Stage is set

The provincial legislature is set to convene a session at 4pm today, July 22, in the Punjab Assembly to vote for the next chief minister of Pakistan’s largest province.

The PML-Q is expected to bring all of its 10 elected lawmakers, the PTI 178 members, the PML-N 167 members, the PPP seven members, a Pakistan Rah-e-Haq Party (PRHP) member and six independents, to the election.

Two seats - which originally belonged to the PML-N, are vacant after members on these seats had tendered their resignations.

The numbers show a very close call, with the PML-Q and the independents together proving to be a swing vote between who will rule Punjab, the PTI or the PMl-N.

The PML-N, however, has lost an additional member after MPA Syeda Uzma Qadir was reported to have contracted the novel coronavirus (Covid-19) and has been hospitalized.

Imran’s warning

Imran Khan, the recently ousted prime minister and current chairman of Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf, has warned the government of ‘uncontrollable consequences’ if the elections are engineered to lend support to those ‘not voted for by the people’.

The PTI chairman also lampooned chief election commissioner Sikandar Sultan Raja for tilting the balance to award wins to those against his party.

While calling him ‘dishonest and anti-PTI’, Imran said he has never seen anyone take such blatant sides in his 26-years-long political career.

He ruled out any possibility of allowing the government to hold general elections under his leadership.

Flurry of meetings in hours leading to CM elections?

With just hours to go until the by-elections, Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) Co-chairman and former president Asif Ali Zardari called on PML-Q Chief Chaudhry Shujaat Hussain in the late hours of Friday.

The former president attempted to use his charm to convince Shujaat to vote against his brother in the Punjab CM elections as the PTI kept crying foul, claiming horse-trading was rife.

It is pertinent to mention here that PML-Q has 10 members in the Punjab assembly. Should they swing, they will help consolidate a win for Hamza Shahbaz.

The true outcome of the meeting will become more obvious once the assembly members vote for the new chief minister.

PTI hunkers down

The 178 provincial assembly members of the PTI hunkered at a local hotel on Friday with 10 MPAs of the PML-Q to consolidate their strategy for the polls.

To the dismay of the ruling party, the PML-Q and PTI members have collaborated to secure a win for Pervaiz Elahi.

In a tweet, PTI Vice President Fawad Chaudhry said that 186 members were present at the parliamentary session of both political parties.

Speaking on the occasion, CM nominee Elahi said that those trying to upset his win through ‘Changa-Manga politics’ (horse-trading) would face defeat.

This session was later addressed by PTI chairman Imran Khan.

Party positions

After Sunday’s by-polls on 20 seats, the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) has 178 seats in the provincial assembly.

The Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N), on the other hand, has just 167 seats.

These numbers include reserved seats.

The Pakistan Muslim League-Quaid (PML-Q), whose leader Chaudhry Pervaiz Elahi is in the running for the chief minister’s slot, has just 10 seats.

The Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) has just seven seats in the assembly.

As many as six seats are held by independent MPAs.

The last remaining seat is held by the Pakistan Rah-e-Haq party.

Rules for Election day

Punjab Assembly Secretariat has issued a code of conduct for the election of the new leader of the house that is going to take place on July 22, SAMAA TV reported.

In a notification issued by Punjab Assembly Secretary Muhammad Khan Bhatti, neither Punjab Assembly Members nor the assembly staff will be allowed to bring guests to the House on the day of the election.

The Speakers’ Box, Officer Box and Visitors’ Gallery, all will remain closed. Press Gallery, however, will remain open for media persons from where they cover the proceedings.

Members of the assembly have been advised to carry with them the identity cards issued by the assembly, while there will be a ban on carrying mobile phones into the house.

MPAs will be able to enter the assembly from the gate located near the Duty-Free Shop.

Who will be the new Punjab chief minister?

Have your say on who will be Punjab’s new chief minister in our poll:

Imran Khan

Asif Ali Zardari

Hamza Shehbaz

Chaudhry Pervaiz Elahi

Chaudhry Shujat Hussain

Punjab CM election

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