Rivals hope by-polls will break deadlock

Punjab govt, opposition focused on poll campaign after court interventions

Rana Yasif July 14, 2022
Punjab Assembly. PHOTO: APP


The government and opposition’s focus has shifted towards the Punjab Assembly by-elections scheduled for Sunday after confusion created because of their parallel house sessions was cleared to a large extent through a Supreme Court order.

Both the treasury and opposition lawmakers had termed illegal each other’s sessions of the assembly.

However, the timely verdict of the Supreme Court resolved a lot of issues, after which the government as well as the opposition’s focus shifted towards the by-elections.

The results of the by-elections for 20 seats will pave the way for the winning party to form the government in Punjab. The province's politics has been marred by successive deadlocks since the budget session of the assembly started.

The first deadlock was witnessed when Punjab Assembly Speaker Parvez Elahi ruled that the chief secretary and the inspector general of police (IGP) must come to the house to tender apology over false FIRs registered against PTI members.

The Punjab government did not accept the ruling and the governor issued a notification proroguing the budget session and summoning the 41st session of the assembly at Aiwan-e-Iqbal.

Another constitutional crisis erupted after the move when both the treasury and opposition lawmakers started legislation against each other in their parallel sessions.

The treasury members attending the budget session at Aiwan-e-Iqbal suspended the 'judicial powers' of the speaker and secretary of the assembly, easing the problems of the bureaucrats.

After that Speaker Parvez Elahi restored the powers of the secretary, enabling him to issue gazette notification of summoning or proroguing the assembly.

Another deadlock was witnessed on issuing notification of PTI’s five members on reserved seats after the ECP’s decision of de-seating 25 members over not following the part line in the chief minister’s election on April 16 in Punjab Assembly.

PML-N and the ECP were of the view that the new members should be notified after the by-elections but the PTI and PML-Q wanted to get them notified before the election.

The matter was taken to Lahore High Court where PTI won the case and the ECP had to notify the five members.

Later, another issue arose when Speaker Elahi administered oath to the five members as the PML-N claimed that he was presiding over an unconstitutional session. The stance was seconded by the law department.

But the speaker and the opposition lawmakers claimed that their session was being presided over in accordance with the law, adding that if someone had an objection it should be taken to the courts.

As the date of the by-elections was drawing nearer, another major deadlock erupted after an LHC larger bench ordered recounting of votes cast in the election of the CM, following PTI’s claim that Chief Minister Hamza Shehbaz had fallen short of the required number 186 after the ECP’s decision of de-seating of dissident members.

Questions were raised about who would run the province till the by-elections. The PML-N claimed Hamza would remain the Chief Minister as he had support of more members than the other parties in the assembly, while the PTI and PML-Q said they did not have trust on him and he could not claim to be the CM after the court order for recounting of votes.

The matter was resolved by the Supreme Court as consensus developed among the PML-N, PTI and PML-Q following CM Hamza's undertaking that he will neither be involved in any harassment of the rival party’s members not launch any development projects during by-election campaign.

This set the stage for the realisation across the political divide that the July 17 by-elections would decide the fate of both the treasury and opposition parties.

Published in The Express Tribune, July 14th, 2022.


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