What transpired in the Punjab Assembly today clearly indicates that there are powerful forces that want to push Pakistan toward civil war.
The provincial assembly session was convened on the orders of the Supreme Court to elect a new chief minister following the July 17 by-elections.
The contest was between Pervaiz Elahi of PML-Q backed by Pakistan Tehreek-e Insaf (PTI), and Hamza Shehbaz, son of the imported prime minister Shehbaz Sharif, of Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz group (PML-N).
Between them, the PTI-PML-Q bloc had 186 seats in the assembly while the PML-N block had only 179 seats.
Let us quickly recount what transpired.
When the ballots were cast, Pervaiz Elahi had secured 186 votes—the requisite number in the 392-seat assembly to elect the chief minister.
The deputy speaker, Dost Mazari announced that Hamza Shehbaz had 179 votes.
This was a lie.
Seven members of the PML-N were not present in the assembly so, in reality, only 172 members had voted for Hamza Shehbaz.
Based on this count, Elahi should have been declared the winner and the new chief minister of Punjab.
Instead, the deputy speaker announced that he had a letter from Chaudhry Shujat Hussain, leader of PML-Q, which stated that his party members in the assembly should not vote for Pervaiz Elahi, a member of their own party.
The 10 members of PML-Q were not even aware of this instruction from Chaudhry Shujat. Nor did it have any validity according to the constitution.
The deputy speaker, however, ruled that the 10 members belonging to PML-Q had acted against the advice of their party leader and their votes were invalid.
This was a most bizarre ruling and clearly showed that the deputy speaker had no clue what he was saying.
It was in violation of Article 63A of the Constitution and the Supreme Court ruling.
Both stipulate that members cannot vote against the advice of the Parliamentary Party. There is no provision of the party leader intruding into the affair.
The PML-Q parliamentary party had passed a resolution that they would vote for Pervaiz Elahi as chief minister. It is available for the record.
If Chaudhry Shujat’s letter was accepted as valid—which it was not—then Pervaiz Elahi would have had to vote against himself!
Every legal expert in the country has stated that the deputy speaker’s ruling is unconstitutional.
One wonders how an ignorant person like Dost Mazari could occupy the seat of deputy speaker when he is not familiar with even the basic articles of the constitution?
Perhaps, he was acting out of bias since his leanings are toward the PML-N.
Leading to the assembly session today, PML-N and their ally, Asif Ali Zardari (a venal character), had tried to buy off PTI members with offers of between Rs 500 million to Rs one billion in bribes.
One member of PTI, Amjad Mehmood Chaudhry was paid Rs. 400 million by PML-N and he fled to Turkey.
Not surprisingly, the PTI and PML-Q lodged a petition in the Supreme Court against the deputy speaker’s ruling which was accepted by the court registrar today (July 22).
Further, on a call from Imran Khan, tens of thousands of people in major cities of Pakistan have come out to protest these devious and illegal moves.
Will the Supreme Court deliver justice?
It will depend on how much pressure is exerted on the judges by the generals who are operating behind the scenes to prevent Imran Khan’s return to power.
The small coterie of generals around army chief Qamar Javed Bajwa played a dirty game in ousting Imran Khan at the behest of the US.
It has plunged the country into political and economic turmoil.
Pakistan is on the verge of default and may be declared bankrupt.
The value of the rupee vis-à-vis the US dollar has nose-dived; foreign exchange reserves have plummeted and prices of basic foods and fuel have skyrocketed placing an unbearable burden on ordinary people.
Nearly 90 million people in the country face hunger.
This is up from 60 million only three months ago when Imran Khan’s government was overthrown.
There is palpable anger among people in the streets.
They are fed up of not only the crooked politicians but also the generals—in reality real estate tycoons who have plundered state resources for decades.
Pakistan appears on the verge of an explosion.
The generals are creating a 1971-type situation again that resulted in the break-up of Pakistan.
Unless the Supreme Court upholds the constitution and its own ruling, civil war is a real possibility.
The consequences would be horrendous.
Pakistan may not even survive this time.