Amid opposition boycott, Elahi ‘wins’ post midnight trust vote in Punjab Assembly
The Pakistan Muslim League-Quaid (PML-Q) and Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) smashed and grabbed the vote of confidence with the minimum votes required after the opposition had boycotted the impromptu motion.
A session of the provincial assembly was dragged late into the night on January 11 and then a new session commenced shortly after midnight with the vote of confidence on the agenda. However, a copy of the agenda was not shared as per tradition.
This move of the government was met with strong protests from the opposition who surrounded the speaker’s dais and then walked out of the session even as the voting process continued.
After an evening of pandemonium and protests, the Punjab Assembly Speaker Muhammad Sibtain Khan had taken a 30 minute dinner break towards the end of the night.
During this time, it allowed both the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) and its allies the Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) and the PML-Q and PTI to regroup and strategize for the impending vote of confidence.
Punjab Chief Minister Parvez Elahi, who had been conspicuously absent from the house all day, suddenly showed up to attend a meeting of the parliamentary party.
Later, Sibtain Khan returned to the house and commenced the new session of the assembly.
Raja Basharat had submitted a request for vote of confidence in the assembly secretariat which was then read out by the Punjab Assembly Secretary Inayatullah Lak. He also proceeded to explain the voting process.
It was followed by ringing of the bells for five minutes to gather members.
Parvez Elahi’s entry on the assembly floor was met with strong protests and chants from the opposition members.
But as the voting process began, the opposition members stepped onto the floor and surrounded the speaker’s dais and vociferously protested.
One PML-N MPA Arshad Malik tossed the papers of the assembly’s secretary.
Suddenly, a large number of police streamed into the house and tried to put a safety cordon around the speaker and assembly secretary.
The opposition then staged a walkout, boycotting the proceedings. They started staging a protest outside the assembly building, chanting slogans including ‘watch thief, watch thief’ in a reference to PTI Chairman Imran Khan.
Meanwhile, the gates of the assembly were locked as voting continued inside.
Earlier, Mahmoodur Rasheed said that they had 187 members in the house who would vote to express their confidence on Elahi as the chief minister.
However, an independent count showed that only 184 members of the government were present.
Despite claims of the ruling coalition, they suffered a blow after they managed to secure the minimum votes required to secure it.
According to the assembly count, 186 members in the house had voted for Elahi, enabling him to remain as the chief minister for a while longer.
Heavy police presence
Earlier, a heavy contingent of Punjab police gathered outside the assembly led by Lahore CCPO Ghulam Mehmood Dogar.
He summoned the SHOs of all police stations along with staff. All SSPs of Lahore were also directed to gather at the assembly.
The officers were not provided any specific instructions though Dogar met with Elahi in the house for fresh instructions.
Earlier, the session of the Punjab Assembly commenced on Wednesday with significant pandemonium with both sides lacking sufficient numbers.
The opposition and treasury benches traded slogans and thumped their desks using copies of the day’s agenda.
Some opposition members even tore copies of the agenda as they protested against the speaker over his refusal to call for a vote of confidence from the Punjab Chief Minister Chaudhry Parvez Elahi.
Before the assembly session began, the opposition benches staged a protest and besieged the chair of the Punjab Assembly Speaker Mohammad Sibtain Khan, challenging his estimation of the presence of treasury benches.
During the protest, opposition members shouted the slogans, “Fake counting unacceptable.”
Later on, speaker Punjab Assembly has begun the session and claimed stated that lawmakers from the treasury benches were in the majority.
However, a count showed that the lawmakers on the treasury benches numbered only 165, while the opposition members numbered 191.
To successfully survive the vote of confidence, the Punjab chief minister must secure votes from 51% of the house, or around186 members.
Meanwhile, Punjab Assembly speaker made it clear that a formal vote of confidence will not take place on Wednesday.
He urged that members recommend other issues for debate.
Some treasury members claimed that the opposition were receiving instructions from Federal Interior Minister Rana Sanaullah.
Meanwhile, federal interior minister Rana Sanaullah said that only 175 government members of the provincial assembly were present in session.
“Do not play the drama,” he stressed the government, adding that “they have only 175 members.”