All eyes on Punjab Assembly as it meets to elect new speaker

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Lawmakers have begun to arrive to the Punjab Assembly, as a keenly awaited session to elect a new speaker is about to begin, after the office fell vacant when the previous speaker, Chaudhry Parvez Elahi, was sworn in as the chief minister.

In its proceedings on Thursday, the House adopted a resolution seeking the suspension of the assembly rules that authorise the governor to summon a session for the contest and also holding a vote of no-confidence against Deputy Speaker Sardar Dost Mohammad Mazari on Friday.

Sibtain Khan, the PTI lawmaker from Mianwali, has been nominated by the ruling coalition comprising PTI and PML-Q for the office of the speaker, while opposition parties PML-N and PPP have fielded Saiful Malook Khokhar as their joint candidate.

The nomination papers of both the contestants were cleared after scrutiny by newly appointed assembly secretary Inayatullah Lak. His predecessor Mohammad Khan Bhatti was transferred and posted as principal secretary to the chief minister in an unprecedented move as no assembly service officer has ever been sent on deputation to a general service post.

Earlier, a sitting of the longest session of the assembly was held with Wasim Badozai in the chair in which former law minister Raja Basharat tabled a resolution to suspend the rules of business for holding polls for the seat of speaker and for no-confidence vote against Deputy Speaker Mazari on Friday (today) afternoon. The motion was adopted with a majority vote.

After reading out the procedure for the election of the new speaker, Badozai put off the proceedings till today.

The long-drawn-out battle for the provincial chief executive had finally drawn to a close earlier this week after the Supreme Court struck down the deputy speaker’s ruling on the Punjab chief minister’s re-election, which had led to Hamza Shehbaz’s victory.

During the election, the deputy speaker, had decided against counting the votes of 10 PML-Q lawmakers, which were cast in Elahi’s favour, citing a letter written by party President Chaudhry Shujaat Hussain in which he had instructed them to vote for Hamza instead. That decision had tipped the balance in Hamza’s favour — an advantage the SC reversed in its verdict on Tuesday.

Elahi was, subsequently, sworn in at 2am on Wednesday.

The PTI-PML-Q coalition then decided to move a no-confidence resolution against Mazari, who was elected to the office as PTI’s candidate.