Punjab’s hullabaloo

The million-dollar question is: will Elahi go ahead and dissolve the Assembly?

January 13, 2023

It seems to be a happy ending apparently as an evolving constitutional crisis has been defused in Punjab. After more than a month of hullabaloo, the discord over who enjoys a majority in the Punjab Assembly has come to an end. A surprise, but anticipated, vote of confidence by Chief Minister Chaudhry Pervez Elahi in the wee hours of Thursday sealed the fate of the PDM politics, and as of now the coalition stands routed. The writing was on the wall well before the headcount to ascertain Elahi’s majority was solicited as the PPP and PMLN MPAs called it a day, and walked out of the Assembly after indulging in window-dressing vandalism. The PTI-PMLQ combine managed to exhibit the required 186 members in support on the floor of the house, thus rendering the Governor’s de-notification memo and the case in the Lahore High Court infructuous.

The good point is that Governor Balighur Rehman and likewise the honourable five-member bench seized with the petition did not opt for lingering on with intricate modalities, and the row stands settled. As rightly observed by the court, it is a good omen that constitutional writ and procedure had prevailed in a political sense, with no reliance on the hammer of the judiciary. This could have been evaded had Elahi not jumped the gun by refusing to take a vote of confidence earlier, and the Speaker exercised his writ to call in the required session in all humility. But the ruling bandwagon had skeletons to touch-base as the PMLQ with 10 legislators wanted to buy time by ejecting the spirit of PTI to dissolve the legislature.

The million-dollar question is: will Elahi go ahead and dissolve the Assembly? Will PTI chief Imran Khan be able to convince the Establishment to opt for general election at the altar of throwing in two of his governments? Or, is the ruling dispensation in Lahore now crafting a new strategy of ‘wait and talk it out’? The answers are imbibed in political exigency. But one thing is for sure: the PTI has weathered the pressure and come out more wildly. The dye is surely cast for a change.

Published in The Express Tribune, January 13th, 2023.

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