A session of the Punjab Assembly set to vote on a no-confidence motion submitted by the PTI and PMLQ against Deputy Speaker Dost Muhammad Mazari was abruptly adjourned on Thursday with an announcement it will convene again at 11:30 a.m. on May 16 (Monday).
In a notification issued by Speaker Parvez Elahi, who is facing his own no-confidence vote, the provincial assembly session was called off at around 11 a.m., just 30 minutes before it was to begin. “In exercise of the powers vested in me under Rule 25(b) of the Rules of Procedure of the Provincial Assembly of Punjab, 1997, I, Parvez Elahi, Speaker, Provincial Assembly of Punjab, hereby order that the next sitting of the 40th Session of Punjab Assembly will now be held on Monday, 16th May 2022 at 11:30 a.m. in Assembly Chambers, Lahore, instead of Thursday, 28th April 2022 at 11:30 a.m.,” read the notification issued by the speaker.
In a subsequent press conference, Elahi—flanked by lawmakers of the PTI—claimed officials of the Punjab Assembly were being “harassed” by police officers and reiterated allegations of Pakistan Muslim League (Nawaz) lawmakers provoking violence during the previous session, resulting in injuries to some members of the treasury benches. Claiming that today’s situation also appeared restive, he said the session had to be postponed.
He also targeted the judiciary, accusing the Lahore High Court of overstepping its mandate by directing Punjab Governor Omar Sarfaraz Cheema to administer oath of office to chief minister-elect Hamza Shehbaz. While Hamza was elected nearly two weeks ago, he has yet to assume charge, as the governor has refused to administer the oath over allegations of the vote having been “unconstitutional.” The situation is now proceeding toward a crisis, as the country’s most populous province has not had a functional government in almost a month.
Voting on the no-confidence motion against Mazari was to be held through a secret ballot amid strict security arrangements. The speaker had already barred MPAs from bringing their mobile phones in the House, while women lawmakers had been banned from carrying handbags. Guests and media were also disallowed from witnessing the session.
In his press conference, Elahi urged the Supreme Court to decide the matter of dissident lawmakers’ disqualifications “quickly,” claiming that if the PTI lawmakers who had supported Hamza in his election were deseated, the PTI would retain the majority—and would be able to install him as chief minister.
The PMLQ and PTI had filed a no-confidence vote against Mazari on April 7. Lawmakers had accused him of not adhering to party policy to delay the vote for the chief minister, and alleged he had been “bought” by the PMLN. Neither the PMLQ nor PTI have provided any evidence of their allegations.