The race to the premiership is a number game, which Raja Pervaiz Ashraf won comfortably and convincingly, with 211 votes, against his opponent Sardar Mehtab Abbasi’s 89, in the 342-member lower house of parliament.
But the two’s tallies put together add up to 300. Of the remaining 42, some seats are vacant, some lawmakers were abroad, some abstained due to differences with their party leadership and then some more, well over a dozen, were ruling party’s “missing lawmakers” whose absence remains a mystery.
Pakistan Muslim League-Quaid, on whose ticket 51 members were elected to the National Assembly, had negotiated with the ruling PPP on behalf of 45 members, which, it had promised, would be voting for the government’s candidate.
There were more Q-League members missing though, besides the six disgruntled members that have formed a Likeminded group and already reached an electoral alliance with the PML-Nawaz.
Chaudhry Pervaiz Elahi, who leads the party in the National Assembly, vowed that his party would take action against those who violated party discipline.
Elahi said that three MNAs of his party, Sumaira Malik, Prince Mohiuddin and Jafar Leghari, had informed the leadership that they would not be able to attend the session.
Malik, however, has been frequently spotted with the PML-N at its public gatherings. Besides these three, PML-Q’s Dr Donya Aziz was also missing from the session.
Under rules, the party president can take action against those who vote against party policy in the election for the leader of the house, or a no-confidence motion.
Those lawmakers who are absent from proceedings or are deemed as willfully abstaining from voting also fall under the same clause.
Four seats of in the National Assembly are vacant – the seat of ousted premier Gilani, Fauzia Wahab who passed away recently, Farahnaz Isphani whose membership was suspended by the apex court in the dual nationality case, and a FATA seat where elections were never held due to law and order situation. Meanwhile, eight members of Maulana Fazlur Rehman’s Jamiat Ulema-e-Islam (JUI-F) were present on Friday’s session but abstained from voting.
Of the 11 parliamentarians from Fata, 10 took part in the voting while one abstained, due to his affiliation with the JUI-F, said their parliamentary leader Haji Munir Khan Orakzai.
Haji Adeel, a central leader of government’s allied Awami National Party (ANP), said except party chief Asfandyar Wali, who is abroad for treatment, the remaining 12 members of ANP took part in the voting. The other allied party, the Muttahida Qaumi Movement, when contacted, said two of its members were abroad and could not take part in the session.
Besides all of these, there are some more members who were absent, including Amir Muqam of PML-Q who has now joined PML-N, and Awais Leghari and Jafar Leghari of PML-Q who have joined Imran Khan’s Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf.
Missing PPP lawmakers
After taking into account all the traceable absentees, there are still over a dozen members who could not be traced. Interestingly, they belonged to the ruling PPP.
A PPP leader confirmed that there were some party members who did not attend the session, but declined to reveal the reason for their non-participation.
“You can check with party chief whip Syed Khursheed Shah to know the exact numbers and reasons for their non-attendance,” he said. Shah could not be contacted, despite several attempts.
The opposition PML-N has 91 members in the National Assembly. Of these, three MNAs – Khwaja Asif, Anusha Rehman and Raja Safdar – were out of country while another member, Sardar Mushtaq, did not participate due to differences with the party leadership.
Aftab Ahmed Khan Sherpao of PPP-Sherpao and Saima Akhtar Barwana, an independent member, voted for Abbasi, helping the PML-N candidate secure 89 votes.
Published In The Express Tribune, June 24th, 2012.
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