Parvez Elahi sworn in as Pak Punjab’s new CM amid high political drama


Chaudhry Parvez Elahi took oath as the chief minister of Pakistan’s Punjab on Wednesday, hours after the Supreme Court dealt a big blow to Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif-led coalition by striking down the deputy speaker’s ruling and named the PML-Q leader as the new executive head of the country’s most crucial political province.

In the widely anticipated judgement on a petition filed by Pakistan Muslim League-Quaid (PML-Q) leader Elahi, the apex court on Tuesday declared Deputy Speaker Dost Muhammad Mazari’s controversial decision to reject 10 votes in the Punjab chief minister’s election as “illegal”.

The three-member bench — comprising Chief Justice of Pakistan Umar Ata Bandial, Justice Ijazul Ahsan, and Justice Muneeb Akhtar — ruled that Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) backed candidate Elahi will be the new chief minister of Punjab, paving the way for a change in the country’s most populous province and political heartland.

The apex court’s verdict delivered a big blow to the Sharif-led coalition government as it saw Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) Hamza Shehbaz, son of the prime minister, lost his status of the “trustee” chief minister.

The three-member bench ordered Punjab Governor Baligh ur Rehman to administer the oath to Elahi. However, Rehman refused to perform his duties.

Following Governor Rehman’s refusal, Elahi left for Islamabad late Tuesday night to take oath from President of Pakistan Arif Alvi as per the Supreme Court’s order.

Alvi administered the oath to Elahi, 76, at the Aiwan-e-Sadar early Wednesday morning. President Alvi had sent a special aircraft to bring Elahi to Islamabad for the oath-taking ceremony, Geo News reported.

Elahi, who lost the election held on Friday despite getting a majority vote, challenged the ruling of deputy speaker Mazari who handed victory to Hamza. Elahi was supported by ousted Prime Minister Imran Khan’s Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) party.

Elahi secured 186 votes against 179 votes of Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) candidate Hamza but lost after Deputy Speaker Mazari rejected 10 votes of his Pakistan Muslim League-Quaid (PML-Q) lawmakers.

Mazari refused to count the vote after PML-Q chief Chaudhry Shujaat Hussain through a letter directed his party lawmakers to vote for Hamza, son of Prime Minister Sharif and PML-N president.

The Supreme Court, in an 11-page short order, said: “We find that the understanding and implementation of the said short judgment as well as the provisions of Article 63A(1)(b) of the Constitution by the Deputy Speaker, Provincial Assembly of Punjab, Lahore was patently incorrect and erroneous and cannot be sustained.” It added that the act also “subverted” the governance of Punjab.

As a result, the ruling by the Deputy Speaker of Punjab Assembly is set aside and declared to be void, without lawful authority and of no legal effect, the apex court stated.

In case the governor does not administer an oath to Elahi, President Alvi can do so instead, the court ruled in its short order. The court also declared all the appointments made by Hamza “illegal” and told the members of his cabinet to vacate their offices.

Soon after the verdict was announced, a jubilant crowd carrying PTI flags present outside the Supreme Court on the Constitution Avenue as well as a number of supporters on the premises burst into cheers and sloganeering.

Despite a heavy police contingent blocking the roads leading to the apex court building, a large number of supporters managed to reach the venue, and those who could not make it started celebrating at different police pickets on the way.

The Punjab province has been in turmoil since April which took a new turn on Friday when Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf supported candidate, Elahi, was not declared a winner.

Welcoming the apex court’s ruling, PTI chief Khan said, “I appreciate our SC judges for standing firm and upholding the Constitution & law, against all manner of threats & abuse.” “I want to thank the people of Punjab for coming out in unprecedented numbers in bye-elections against rigging,” the ousted prime minister tweeted.

A resurgent Khan and his PTI have not just snatched the PML-N’s citadel in Lahore, they are also threatening to shake the very foundations of its weak power in Islamabad, the Dawn newspaper said in its editorial.

“It is only a matter of time before the coalition faces increased pressure from all corners, especially the PTI, for early elections, which will be difficult for it to handle with a hostile administration in the largest province,” it said.

“With Khan emerging as the most popular leader it will be hard for the establishment, judiciary, bureaucracy or business elite to write him off. That’s what the verdict underlines,” it said.

Confined to Islamabad with its coalition partners, the PML-N leadership has limited options to survive the remaining term of the present assemblies and no room for manoeuvre in Punjab, the report said.

The only choice for it from here on is to forge a stronger alliance with the other parties — most of them already a part of the coalition — in the next elections and beyond to salvage its politics, it said.

Addressing a press conference soon after the verdict was announced, Information Minister Marriyum Aurangzeb lambasted it as a “judicial coup”.

Jamiat Ulema-I-Islam Fazl (JUI-F) chief Maulana Fazlur Rehman at a press conference in Islamabad said that the government lawyers recommended a full bench but the court instead of reflecting and accepting the advice, rejected it.

JUI-F is a coalition partner in the Pakistan government headed by Prime Minister Sharif’s PML-N.

Pakistan’s coalition government criticised the apex court’s decision not to form a full bench and boycotted the court proceedings on Tuesday.

Foreign Minister Bilawal Bhutto-Zardari, who is Pakistan Peoples Party chairman, had reaffirmed the boycott call, saying the demand for a full court was for the sake of the Constitution, democracy and the court’s own integrity.

The security was tightened around the court building where a large number of police officials were deployed. Paramilitary Rangers, and Frontier Corps personnel were also present to help the police.

Punjab is Pakistan’s second-largest province and any party ruling the key province controls the politics of the country. For the PML-N, losing Punjab means losing the Centre. Political pundits believe that the ruling coalition is now vulnerable.

Tuesday’s outcome provides a “massive opportunity” to PTI chairman Khan to build further pressure on the rulers to call for fresh elections and also corner the PML-N in Punjab which is considered a stronghold of the Sharifs.

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