Analysis: Five PMLN dissidents hold the key in Punjab

Faizan Bangash
Saturday, May 21, 2022

LAHORE: All eyes are set on the Punjab Assembly numbers game after the de-seating of 25 dissident PTI MPAs due to which the PMLN’s safety in Punjab lies with its five dissident MPAs.

Chaudhry Pervaiz Elahi, the sitting speaker of the Punjab Assembly and the candidate of PTI and PMLQ for the CM slot, seems optimistic of making a comeback and has vowed to dissolve the assembly within half an hour after getting elected as the chief minister.

Under the law, there are two ways in which a sitting chief minister can be askedto prove his majority — one by the governor and other by the opposition through a no-confidence move.

The largest province of the country is facing political turmoil these days. A summary moved by the federal government to the president of Pakistan is still in the office of the president. After the passage of 15 days, when the president sends it back to the federal government while giving his remarks, another lapse of 10 days is most likely in the completion of this process. In this way, the PMLN, which has nominated Balighur Rehman for the governor’s slot, cannot have the man of its choice in the office. At the same time, Omar Sarfaraz Cheema, the governor removed through a notification, has also filed a petition and challenged his removal by the PMLN government. If he is restored by the court, he will certainly act as per the instructions of Imran Khan and ask Hamza Shehbaz to prove majority.

Pervaiz Elahi is supposed to serve as the acting governor but has not assumed the office as he is also facing a no-confidence move. In case he assumes the office, he can face the risk of facing a no-confidence move in the session chaired by Deputy Speaker Mir Dost Muhammad Mazari, who is a PTI dissident. The other way to challenge Hamza is through an in-house move, which the PTI is yet to decide.

In the second round of the CM election, under the law, the contesting candidate has to attain a higher number of votes against the rival, rather than proving the simple majority that is attained at 186 in the House of 371. Besides, the law states that any member who casts vote against the party or abstains from the voting process in the CM election has to face disqualification. This is now a real test for figures like Mir Dost Muhammad Mazari and a few more PTI dissidents left in the anti-PTI camp, particularly after the deseating of 25 PTI MPAs. Almost the same situation prevails for the five PMLN dissident MPAs who cannot vote against the party line or even abstain from the process as this would risk their membership.

Jalil Ahmed Sharaqpuri, a dissident PMLN MPA, had reiterated his support for Imran Khan a couple of days ago. Other PMN dissidents include Faisal Niazi and Ashraf Ansari.

Now this is the real test for the PMLN leadership and if it succeeds in winning the support of its rebels, its position will become quite clear in the House as it will have a lead of eight votes against the rivals. But if these members sacrifice their seats while abstaining from the process, the PMLN will have to face a neck-and-neck contest.

The PTI now stands at 158 in the House. It will receive its share in the reserved seats after by-polls are held on the vacant general seats and in case its candidates lose some seats or majority, it will make the PMLN the ultimate beneficiary. The support of 10 PMLQ MPAs takes this strength to 168, but let’s not forget that Mazari and his group also have significance because if Mazari sacrifices his seat, the PTI will face the shortfall of another seat.

On the other hand, the PMLN has a total strength of 166 and minus its five dissidents, it stands at 161. With the support of seven PPP MPAs and independents like Jugnoo Mohsin, Bilal Warraich, Qasim Langah and Ahmed Ali Aulakh, plus one MPA of Rah-e-Haq Party, this strength reaches 173. MPA Ch Nisar Ali Khan also has a significant role now, but the most important is the role of five dissident PMLN MPAs as even if three of them support the PMLN, it can have 176 votes.

In either way, Hamza Shehbaz and Pervaiz Elahi have a nail-biting contest now if the CM is asked to prove majority and a re-election takes place. The expected margin of vote will not be greater than 10 votes, though the PMLN still has an edge.

PTI leader and former Law minister Raja Basharat, while talking to The News, said the PTI government would make a comeback. He said the government of Hamza Shehbaz had lost majority and to celebrate the PTI victory, a historic workers convention would take place in Rawalpindi in which thousands of party workers would participate.