July 20, 2022
By Rehan Piracha
Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaaf (PTI) has received a shot in the arm with the announcement by Pakistan Muslim League-Quaid (PML-Q) President Chaudhry Shujaat Hussain about backing his cousin Pervaiz Elahi for the race of Punjab chief minister on July 22.
Elahi is the joint candidate of PML-Q and PTI against PML-N’s Hamza Shahbaz in the court-ordered run-off election. In a policy statement issued on July 20, Shujaat said Pervez Elahi was the PMl-Q’s candidate for office of the chief minister, quelling reports that PPP co-chairperson Asif Ali Zardari had persuaded Shujaat to write a letter instructing PML-Q MPAs not to vote for Pervaiz Elahi.
“I’m not issuing any letter,” the PML-Q chief said in his statement.
176 MPAs attend PTI-PML-Q meeting
In its first show of superiority in the numbers game, the PTI and PML-Q held a joint meeting of its parliamentary parties at the Punjab Assembly.
According to party sources, a total of 176 MPAs out of 188 from both parties attended the meeting. Shah Mehmood, who co-chaired the parliamentary party meeting with Pervaiz Elahi, told reporters that PML-Q and PTI MPAs remained steadfast despite the pressure. Pervaiz Elahi said that the joint opposition had the majority in the Punjab Assembly and vowed to “defeat every effort to kidnap or harass MPAs”.
PTI leaders accused the ruling Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz and PPP co-chairperson Asif Zardari of offering sums between Rs 300 to 500 million to party MPAs to switch loyalties during voting for election of Punjab chief minister.
In a tweet, PTI leader Murad Raas claimed that the PMLN was offering Rs 30 to Rs 50 crores per MPA of PTI Punjab to change their loyalties, adding that the ruling coalition in Punjab was trying to do everything to stay in power.
PTI seeks early notification of recently-elected MPAs
Separately, PTI leader Yasmin Rashid filed an application with the Provincial Election Commission in Lahore for early notification of the 15 party MPAs elected in the bye-elections on July 17. In the application, she said the Election Commission was not issuing the notification of the recently-elected MPAs which was a violation of the Supreme Court order. She said the Election Commission should immediately notify elected MPAs ahead of July 22 Punjab CM election.
Yasmin Rashid also called on the chief election commissioner (CEC) to take notice of allegations of vote buying in the Punjab CM election. The PTI leader claimed that PPP co-chairperson Asif Zardari was in Lahore to steal the people’s mandate in Punjab by offering bribes to their party MPAs. The party also announced holding of protests in Lahore to condemn alleged efforts to buy votes in the Punjab CM election.
The PTI-PML-Q candidate Pervaiz Elahi has backing of 188 members in the Punjab Assembly. The PTI has 178 members, including 15 recently-elected PTI MPAs while its ally PML-Q has 10 members.
PML-N’s candidate Hamza Shahbaz has the support of 178 members, including four recently elected party MPAs. The number of PMLN members in the Punjab Assembly was 165, which reduced to 162 after the resignations of two members and the disqualification of one member.
However, the PML-N tally rose to 166 after it gained four seats in the bye-election. The ruling coalition comprises seven members of Pakistan Peoples Party Parliamentarians, one member of Rah Haq Party and 4 independent members.
However, PTI will lose one of its vote due to Deputy Speaker Dost Mohammad Mazari becoming the presiding officer in the Leader of the House election whereas the candidate for the slot of Chief Minister Chaudhry Pervez has more than the required number of 186 members whereas to further strengthen its position, PTI is also claiming to have contacts with four independent members who were associated with PML-N.
MPAs holed up in hotels
Both the PTI and PML-N have holed up their MPAs in separate hotels in the provincial capital ahead of the crunch vote. According to sources, 120 MPAs of PTI were residing in a five-star hotel near the Punjab Assembly while the PML-N had accommodated the majority of their MPAs at a hotel near the airport.
On July 19, the ruling coalition had resolved that it would save its provincial government in Punjab, headed by Hamza Shehbaz, at any cost. Federal Interior Minister Rana Sanaullah has also hinted that his party would not let Pervaiz Elahi easily win the Punjab CM race. In a talk show, Rana Sanaullah spoke about the possibility of some PTI MPAs ‘disappearing’ during the session for the CM election.