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Zardari’s manoeuvring and Shujaat’s last-minute letter changed Punjab politics

LAHORE: In an astonishing and shocking last-minute move by Ch. Shujaat Hussain, the PML-Q’s PTI-backed candidate Parvez Elahi lost the Punjab chief minister’s election to PML-N’s Hamza Shehbaz on Friday, after Punjab Assembly Deputy Speaker Dost Mohammad Mazari ruled that PML-Q members’ votes were not counted in light of party head Chaudhry Shujaat Hussain’s letter.

According to informed sources, Asif Ali Zardari’s political manoeuvring convinced Choudhary Shujaat Hussain who agreed the formula of former president famed as ‘king maker’ and issued a letter to Punjab Assembly speaker.

According to Mazari, Hamza received 179 votes whereas Elahi garnered 176 votes, but only after 10 votes of Elahi’s own party were not counted, which turned the tables in Hamza’s favour.

LAHORE: Ch. Shujaat Hussain and Asif Ali Zardari discussing the Punjab Assembly and election of chief minister in a very light mood while relaxing on massage chairs at Ch. Shujaat Hussain’s residence on Thursday a day before election of this portfolio.

Soon after the contentious ruling was announced, PTI leader Asad Umar tweeted that the party would approach the Supreme Court tonight.

The odds were against Hamza, the joint candidate of the Pakistan Democratic Movement (PDM), as the PTI seemingly had the majority with 178 votes of their own and 10 of the PML-Q.

But just minutes before the session, PML-Q chief Chaudhry Shujaat wrote a letter to Deputy Speaker Dost Muhammad Mazari in which he told them that he had directed the party’s lawmakers to vote for Hamza Shahbaz.

After the counting of the votes was done, the deputy speaker read out the letter sent to him by the PML-Q president and citing Article 63A of the Constitution, rejected 10 votes cast by PML-Q members.

LAHORE: Punjab Governor Balighur Rehman administers the oath to Punjab Chief Minister Hamza Shehbaz.

 Who can give directions to MPs under SC order on Article 63(A)?

The Supreme Court of Pakistan, back in May, had ruled the votes of dissident members of the Parliament (MPs), cast against their parliamentary party’s directives, cannot be counted.

The apex court, issuing its verdict on the presidential reference seeking the interpretation of Article 63(A) of the Constitution related to defecting lawmakers of the PTI, said that the law cannot be interpreted in isolation.

During today’s ruling, Article 63(A) was applied after PML-Q President, Chaudhry Shujaat, wrote a letter to the deputy speaker, saying that he had directed the party not to vote in any party’s favour. 

Shujaat-Asif Zardari meeting

PPP supremo Asif Ali Zardari met PML-Q President Chaudhry Shujaat Hussain twice on Thursday to discuss the ongoing political situation in the country ahead of the crucial Punjab chief minister election.

Zardari was at Hussain’s residence for many hours in his last-ditch effort to rescue the situation for the coalition partners and to save Punjab for the PML-N.

The veteran politicians, in one of the meetings that continued for several hours, used massage chairs, a picture of which was also released to the media. The photo triggered a meme flood on social media with the chairs stealing the limelight.

The photo provided netizens with fodder to lighten the mood amid a tense political environment in the country’s largest province.  

Shocking result

According to Deputy Speaker Dost Mazari, Hamza received 179 votes whereas Elahi garnered 176 votes, but only after 10 votes of Elahi’s own party were not counted, which turned the tables in Hamza’s favour.

Before announcing the result, Mazari read Shujaat’s letter out loud. “As party head of Pakistan Muslim League, I have issued directions to all my provincial members to cast their votes in favour of Muhammad Hamza Shehbaz Sharif,” Mazari quoted Hussain as saying.

“As per this letter, according to the ruling of the Supreme Court, all the 10 votes cast by PML-Q leaders have been rejected,” Mazari ruled.

Hafiz Ammar Yasir, Shuja Nawaz, Muhammad Abdullah Warraich, Parvez Elahi, Muhammad Rizwan, Sajjad Sajid Ahmed Khan, Ehsanullah Chaudhry, Muhammad Afzal, Bismah Chaudhry, and Khadija Umar were the 10 members whose votes were not counted.

The deputy speaker’s ruling was countered by PTI MPA Raja Basharat, who argued that as per the law, the parliamentary party is authorised to issue instructions to party members.

“The head of the parliamentary party is Parvez Elahi,” he contended.

However, Mazari maintained that the matter had been clarified by the Supreme Court, subsequently proroguing the session.

While the voting was underway inside the House, unconfirmed reports were circulating outside that PML-Q Chairperson Chaudhry Shujaat Hussain had written a letter distancing himself from Elahi’s candidacy.

LAHORE: Member of Punjab Assembly greeting Hamza Shehbaz Sharif on re-election of Chief Ministership.

The development comes a day after PPP co-chairperson Asif Ali Zardari held a meeting with Shujaat. Earlier, in response to reports that PPP co-chairperson Asif Ali Zardari had asked Shujaat to write a letter instructing PML-Q MPAs not to vote for Elahi, Shujaat said there was “no question” of issuing a letter.

PTI to move Supreme Court

Following Mazari’s decision to disregard the 10 votes of PML-Q members — a move that allowed Hamza to retain his post as the chief minister of Punjab — PTI said that it would approach the country’s top court to challenge the decision.

The election of the chief executive of the country’s largest province between PML-N’s Hamza Shahbaz Sharif and PTI and PML-Q’s candidate Pervez Elahi will determine national politics.

Political analysts believe if the opposition parties — PTI and the PMLQ — win the prized slot in Punjab, the coalition government in the Centre will ultimately feel the heat.

With two provincial governments in the pocket, the ousted premier Imran Khan would prove to be a bigger threat to the Shahbaz Sharif-led federal government, hence there may be an early general election.

LAHORE: Counting of votes for the new chief minister of Punjab is underway.

Moonis says Chaudhry Shujaat will not back Imran Khan’s candidate

In a major development ahead of the voting, PML-Q leader Moonis Elahi said that his uncle, senior party leader Chaudhry Shujaat, has refused to back Imran Khan’s candidate.

Imran urges supporters to stage ‘peaceful protests’

Former prime minister and PTI leader Imran Khan on Friday urged his workers and supporters — particularly the youth — to register their protests tonight, adding that he now expects the Supreme Court to play its role in light of Hamza Shehbaz’s shock win over Parvez Elahi in Punjab CM election.

ISLAMABAD: PTI’s Chairman Imran Khan addresses the people over the Punjab election on Friday.

“I am in shock at what happened in the Punjab Assembly,” he said referring to Deputy Speaker Dost Mohammad Mazari’s ruling to not count PML-Q votes — a decision that reduced PTI-backed Parvez EIahi’s votes from 186 to 176 and handed him a shocking defeat.

“Last night, Asif Zardari reached Lahore. We knew that he had to play a game. For 30 years, he has ruined the country. He buys democracy through black money.”

Imran said the developments of the day were similar to what was allegedly done prior to his ouster from the top office.

Hamza Shehbaz enjoying the political atmosphere at the Punjab Assembly.

“This circus that we are seeing, it first happened in the Sindh House,” he referred to him losing his party MNAs ahead of the no-confidence move in March. “A mandi (market) was set up. Our children were seeing it. Every child has social media these days. There was a market set up where the price of the conscience of public leaders and parliamentarians was ascertained.

“The way goats and sheep are sold … the same way members of the parliament were being sold. Even there, the biggest culprit was the biggest dacoit Asif Zardari. He has gone to jail and still rules over Sindh. He became the part of an imported conspiracy”.

Seats chart Punjab Assembly

“I am telling the nation today. You have to do peaceful protest. Until and unless you do that, nothing will happen. Register your protest. You have to tell that we are humans, and not sheep. Register your protest today so that they know the Pakistani nation is alive. Tell them that you wont let these dacoits steal the mandate of the public.”

Imran, whose party has decided to challenge the deputy speaker’s ruling in the Supreme Court, also addressed the top judiciary in his address.

“I also want to urge the Supreme court that things are clear in front of you. I have done jihad against Zardari and Sharifs for years. I was pressured to give them NRO but I refused. Both of them looted the country,” he said.

Choudhary Shujaat Hussain’s letter to Speaker Punjab Assembly on Friday that changed the Punjab politics.

“Until and unless we bring these dacoits under the rule of law, there is no future for this country. Remember that our children are seeing this.”