Elahi goes hit wicket!

The whirlpool aftereffects of political upheavals in Punjab will now be felt across the country

July 23, 2022


Checkmate for PTI. Its hopes to regain Punjab have fallen flat. The Deputy Speaker on technical ground rejected 10 votes of PML-Q cast in favour of Chaudhry Pervez Elahi to truncate the majority of 186/179, and retain Hamza Sharif as the provincial chief executive. It was one of the most intriguing and nail-biting days in politics, as tables turned at the eleventh hour. The withdrawal of support for Elahi from his elder brother and PML-Q head, Chaudhry Shujaat Hussain, came as a blessing in disguise for Hamza. He managed to win the arithmetic on the floor of the house, despite trailing back in principle with more than 10 votes.

This change of heart from Shujaat has triggered a legal debate as to whether the parliamentary leader’s decision will rule the writ of the party president, which came in once the legislators were already in the house with a firm decision to vote for Pervez Elahi. The clause of defection is up for a contest as the constitution spells out the word of ‘parliamentary leader’ who will call the shots. But the Chair under Dost Muhammad ruled otherwise, and didn’t give in to PML-Q’s threadbare arguments that parliamentary leader under the constitution and apex court judgment holds the sway.

A lot of wheeling-dealing, alleged money-laundering to bribe the MPs and state-centric pressure was the order of the day since PTI scored an incisive victory at bye-polls. To further up the ante was Asif Zardari’s running between the wickets, as he met Shujaat multiple times to seek his support for Hamza. He managed to get the nod as the assembly session was in progress, and the rest is history. In other words, politics of connivance was all around as the nail-biting situation was in vogue with the session being delayed for more than three hours for reasons of exigency and manipulation by the ruling PML-N. Likewise, MPs holed in hotels at Lahore under stringent vigilance of their party’s watchful eyes and reports of dirty-money doing the rounds to change the loyalty was another bitter aspect of our fragile and unnerved democracy. The fact that the PTI-PML-Q had overcome all odds to vote collectively and without any dissent for Elahi is a tribute to its resilience. The fate will now be decided, of course, in the course of time.

The whirlpool aftereffects of political upheavals in Punjab will now be felt across the country. It is difficult to assume that PTI cadres will be peaceful anymore. Imran Khan has already warned of a Sri Lankan-type uprising if the mandate to rule is stolen or deprived. This uncertainty is an added addition to the devastating economy at hand, as dollar’s flight continued uninterrupted for the fifth consecutive day and bourses wore a bearish outlook. With polarisation at its peak, the ball is back in the court of law. Precedents and constitutional clarity must rule the roost, and spell out a scenario that is ordained and unbiased.

Published in The Express Tribune, July 23rd, 2022.

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