Speakership, a test of abilities for Malik Ahmed Khan

Political journey of new Punjab Assembly speaker

On completing 103 years of the Punjab Assembly, Malik Muhammad Ahmed Khan has been elected as the 31st Speaker of the House. Malik Ahmed Khan is counted among the capable and educated politicians of the new generation, whose family background is also deeply rooted in national poli­tics. His father, Malik Muhammad Ali Khan, was also a member of the Punjab Assembly and the Senate of Pakistan, serving as the Deputy Chair­man of the Senate from 1986 to 1988.

When we look at the history of the Punjab As­sembly, it stands out as one of Pakistan’s oldest legislative institutions. Over more than a century, it has witnessed many ups and downs, with nu­merous bitter and sweet incidents associated with its surroundings. Even before the creation of Paki­stan, representatives of the British government served as its speakers, and later prominent Hindu and Sikh political figures also held the position of speaker in the Punjab Assembly.

Malik Muhammad Ahmed Khan began his politi­cal career during General Pervez Musharraf’s era, contesting the 2002 general elections on the plat­form of the King’s Party (PML-Q) but later joined the Muslim League-Nawaz after a four-year hiatus from politics following the 2008 elections. He was elected on the PML-N ticket in the 2013 assembly. Throughout his tenure in the assembly, he played his role like a seasoned legislator, but couldn’t se­cure a place in the party’s government. His moder­ate stance during the 2014 confrontation between Nawaz Sharif and the establishment garnered him favour within establishment circles.

His relationship with General Qamar Javed Ba­jwa was no secret, and the PML-N turned this rela­tionship into a means of communication with the establishment. Their successful shuttle diplomacy between Nawaz Sharif and General Qamar Javed Bajwa resulted in a thaw in the tensions surround­ing the Panama Papers case, but ultimately led to the downfall of the PML-N’s politics. General Ba­jwa held Malik Ahmed Khan in such high regard that, after the no-confidence movement against Usman Buzdar, he was the favorite for the post of Chief Minister of Punjab in the PML-N govern­ment, but this support didn’t materialize, and he was not appointed as the Chief Minister.

However, after relentless service to the party for ten years, he has finally been rewarded with the important position of Speaker of the Punjab As­sembly. Malik Muhammad Ahmed Khan has been elected Speaker of the Punjab Assembly in ex­tremely unusual circumstances. He faces two ma­jor challenges: first, as the custodian of the House, he must assert the As­sembly’s true position in the face of dwindling parliamentary suprem­acy. Second, he must reconcile the polarized opposition. Bitter mem­ories of the Assembly’s records loom large over its speakers and chief ministers. Everyone re­members when on Feb­ruary 22, 1985, during Nawaz Sharif’s tenure as Chief Minister, Gener­al Zia-ul-Haq addressed the Punjab Assembly as President of Pakistan, and Speaker Mian Man­zoor Wattoo presided over the session. On that occasion, a member of the PPP, Fazal Hussain Rahi, protested, and the Speaker expelled him from the Assembly with the help of the Sergeant-at-Arms. Then again, in 2007, during the tenure of Chief Minister Chaudhry Parvez Elahi, the Board Colonel Pervez Musharraf not only elected Gen­eral Pervez Musharraf as President for the second term but also stated that if they had their way, they would elect General Pervez Musharraf as Presi­dent in civilian clothes, and then everyone saw that those who used to seek the establishment’s approval, Nawaz Sharif’s Raiwind Palace, are now spending their old age in Adiala Jail. The un-elected Speaker Malik Muhammad Ahmed Khan has a les­son in this that he must maintain moderation.

The second major challenge is that at this time, there is political polarization across the country, especially in Punjab. Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf has emerged as a major challenge for the Pakistan Mus­lim League-N in the Punjab Assembly, both inside and outside the House. Tehreek-e-Insaf will give a tough time to the PML-N in the Punjab Assembly. Relations between the government and the opposi­tion are turning into animosity and enmity rather than political differences. The start of the Punjab Assembly’s proceedings has also taken place in an extremely charged atmosphere. In such a situa­tion, Malik Ahmed Khan, who always speaks with the constitution, law, and logic, faces a test of his abilities as Speaker of the Punjab Assembly. Malik Ahmed Khan has played his role as a firefighter in the past, successfully bridging the gap between the PML-N and the establishment. Now it remains to be seen how he brings the conflicting opposition to the table and restores politics in the Assembly so that the legislative process can move forward, for which the people elected their representatives on February 8 and sent them to the assemblies.


The writer is a senior journalist based in Lahore who covers politics, economy and militancy. He can be reached at shrnaqvi3@gmail.com.

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