Battle For Punjab

| PML-N leader secures 197 votes; Parvez Elahi gets no vote as PML-Q, PTI boycott voting


LAHORE  -  In a stormy session of the Punjab Assembly on Saturday, the opposition parties joint candidate Hamza Shehbaz Sharif was elected 21st Chief Minister of the Punjab province following a nerve-racking ordeal of over six hours marked by chaos and anarchy caused by Ch Parvez Elahi’s supporters who also attacked Deputy Speaker Sardar Dost Muhammad Mazari eventually forcing him to make a hasty exit from the House.

The voting to elect a new chief minister was made possible after the police commandos took control of the House on the directions of the Deputy Speaker. Before the police were called in, the PTI and PML-Q legislators occupied the deputy speaker’s podium for well over six hours to stop him from starting the voting process.

When the voting finally started in the police presence, the PTI and PML-Q lawmakers left the House sensing they had lost control over everything inside the House. Hamza Shehbaz secured 197 votes though he needed 168 for victory. At least 26 PTI dissidents voted for Hamza Shehbaz in Saturday’s election.

Earlier, the violent MPAs from the two parties assaulted the deputy speaker as he sat on his chair to preside over the sitting.  A bunch of unruly MPAs roughed him up in the chair, pulled his hair and beat him physically. The young deputy speaker was rescued by a security guard as the miscreants kept pushing him towards the exit door. It was an unprecedented scene ever witnessed in Punjab Assembly’s history.

Following this episode, the women lawmakers of the PTI occupied the deputy speaker’s podium and made victory signs chanting slogans against Dost Muhammad Mazari whom they called a traitor and a friend of America.  They also placed lotas on the deputy speaker’s table and they sat comfortably over it for well over four hours. They were bucked up and supported by their male colleagues sitting on the treasury benches.

While the Assembly proceeding remained suspended for four hours, the deputy speaker sat in his chamber and chaired a meeting also attended by the Punjab chief secretary and the IGP. The meeting chalked a strategy to neutralize the unruly legislators and hold the voting in the light of court orders. Before this, he also wrote a letter to the chief secretary and the IGP seeking their help to conduct the voting as per court orders.

It was decided to send the police commandos inside the House to regain control over the deputy speaker’s podium. At around 3 pm, the reporters in the press gallery saw around a two-dozen burqa-clad women constables making entry into the House. But they just stood still behind the podium close to the women MPAs occupying the place.

In the meanwhile, around a dozen helmet wearing policemen suddenly entered the House from the entrance meant for the speaker and the deputy speaker. As they tried to take positions just below the podium, the women MPAs attacked them one by one. They even pulled off their helmets and beat them up. Surprisingly, the policemen did not offer any resistance. They were easily pushed back towards the exit door. It was funny to watch that they were seen on the run even after a light push by the women legislators who seemed to have acquired the powers of a giant at that moment.

But the forceful commando action which followed immediately afterwards led many to believe that the first police action, very soft in nature, was just part of a pre-planned strategy to provide justification for a greater and forceful action. A heavy police contingent comprising over one hundred personnel gushed out of the main lobby and made their way into the House. They lined up just in front the front rows in the House to provide protection to the deputy speaker who was yet to come. The policemen seemed to have outnumbered the Assembly members.

At this point, the MPAs belonging to the PTI, and the PML-Q decided to confront the police, and a scuffle broke out on the Assembly floor which turned into a battlefield. It was a competition of wrestling skills involving fist fights and what not.

This was the start of yet another ugly part of the entire episode. As the police commandos pushed the treasury MPAs towards their seats, Ch Parvez Elahi’s men sitting in the guest’s gallery and those hiding behind the lobbies (Not MPAs) were allowed to enter the House to take on the police. Interestingly, most of them were clad in black uniform and entered the house under the garb of the Assembly’s security staff. Now, the outsiders also became part of the fight being fought on the Assembly floor.

It was during this scuffle that Ch Parvez Elahi received injuries on his right arm. He was swiftly moved out of the House for first aid, and he never returned. The same happened with the official photographer of Ch Parvez Elahi, Mr Iqbal Ch, who also received minor injuries during the scuffle with police.

It was now a big challenge for the police to identify and kick out the outsiders from the House. Rana Mashhood Ahmad Khan of the PML-N volunteered to perform this job. He acted in aid of the police to flush them out. In fifteen minutes or so, they were bundled off to the lobbies. This had a demoralising effect on the treasury MPAs though apparently, they seemed unwilling to relent. The doors opening towards the lobbies were closed and the official gallery was cleared of the guests.

Order was restored in the House after the treasury MPAs decided to surrender and confined themselves only to the usual sloganeering. Under a strategy, the police did not touch the women MPAs surrounding the deputy speaker’s podium.

In the meanwhile, the deputy speaker appeared in the official gallery instead of his official podium. He sat there along with the secretary Assembly and the proceeding started with the recitation from the Holy Quran. It was totally calm inside the House after around six hours. Dost Mazari announced to start the voting process. The MPAs voting for Hamza Shehbaz were asked to proceed towards the lobby and mark their attendance in a register kept by the Assembly staff.  Their attendance was counted as a vote for their candidate.

When the deputy speaker began voting to elect the chief minister, the treasury members announced a boycott of the voting process and left the House. A few of them however remained in the assembly to witness the whole process.