PMLQ files intra-court appeal against ruling, maintaining deputy speaker’s authority cannot be restored once withdrawn by speaker
The Lahore High Court (LHC) on Wednesday rejected a plea from the opposition in the Punjab Assembly to conduct early elections for the chief minister of the province, and directed the provincial assembly’s deputy speaker to conduct the vote on the previously notified date of April 16 (Saturday).
The single-member bench of Chief Justice Muhammad Ameer Bhatti delivered its verdict on two petitions filed by Leader of the Opposition in the Punjab Assembly Hamza Shahbaz and Deputy Speaker Dost Muhammad Mazari. Shahbaz, a contender for the chief minister, had filed a plea seeking early elections for the chief minister, while Mazari had sought revocation of Speaker Pervez Elahi’s order to remove his powers.
Announcing the verdict, the LHC chief justice rejected Shahbaz’s plea, but restored Mazari’s authority and directed him to conduct the vote for the chief minister on April 16. He also ordered all parties to perform their roles impartially, stressing that all personnel of the Punjab Assembly should work to ensure the election takes place on time.
The office of the Chief Minister of Punjab fell vacant after Usman Buzdar resigned on the orders of Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) Chairman Imran Khan. The PTI then announced it would field Pakistan Muslim League (Quaid) leader Pervez Elahi as its candidate for the chief minister, provoking criticism from within its ranks. Dissident factions led by former PTI stalwarts Aleem Khan and Jahangir Tareen subsequently pledged their support to the PMLN, while Chaudhry Muhammad Sarwar was dismissed for—according to him—refusing to accept “unconstitutional” demands of Khan.
Amidst this acrimony, the deputy speaker moved up the session for the chief minister’s election from April 16 to April 6 in violation of the PTI chairman’s instructions. The PTI then filed a no-confidence motion against Mazari, who is also a member of the party. Meanwhile, Elahi—as speaker—ordered the sealing of the Punjab Assembly to prevent the opposition from convening any session on the premises.
The opposition, in a symbolic session of the Punjab Assembly at a local hotel on April 6, elected Shahbaz as the chief minister with 199 votes. It has since maintained that it would also emerge victorious in a formal election whenever it is held.
Following the LHC’s verdict, the PMLQ has filed an intra-court appeal against the ruling to restore the authority of the deputy speaker, maintaining that this cannot happen once the speaker has withdrawn his powers.