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PML-N wins speaker, deputy positions in Punjab PA

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LAHORE: A day after more than 300 members took oath as lawmakers in the Punjab Assembly, the provincial assembly lawmakers through a secret ballot on Saturday elected PML-N leader Malik Ahmad Khan as the custodian of the house and Zaheer Iqbal Channar as his deputy.

Malik Ahmad Khan, Sharifs’ loyalist from Kasur, and Mr Channar from Bahawalpur defeated the PTI-backed Sunni Ittehad Council (SIC) nominee Malik Ahmad Khan Bachhar from Mianwali and Moin Riaz from Multan for the speaker and deputy speaker offices, respectively.

The PML-N candidates were backed by their allies, the PPP, Pakistan Muslim League-Q (PML-Q), and the Istehkam-i-Pakistan Party (IPP).

Out of the total 322 votes cast in the house, Malik Ahmed Khan secured 224 votes against 96 bagged by Ahmad Bachhar. Two votes were rejected. Zaheer Iqbal got 220 votes and Moin Riaz of the SIC received only 103.

As Speaker Sibtain Khan announced the result the house was abuzz with slogans of ‘sher sher’ (the electoral symbol of the PML-N). After the victory of Ahmad Khan, PML-N’s chief minister nominee Maryam Nawaz rose from her seat and congratulated Mr Khan.

After getting elected and taking the oath, he presided over the session and held the election for the deputy speaker slot, which was also won by the PML-N candidate, though with slightly fewer votes than Ahmad Khan.

Marathon session

The Punjab Assembly marathon session began almost 90 minutes behind schedule as both the PML-N and SIC — the new home of the Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI) backed winning candidates — held meetings of their parliamentary parties to devise a strategy ahead of the speaker and deputy speaker polls.

As the session began both the treasury and opposition benches engaged in scornful sloganeering, with the opposition members targeting Maryam Nawaz with their ‘thief’ slogans and the treasury benches responding with ‘watch thief’.

During the session, SIC’s Rana Aftab Ahmad Khan drew the attention of outgoing speaker Sibtain Khan towards the non-allotment of women and minorities reserved seats for the SIC. Aftab Khan claimed the election of the speaker and deputy speaker would remain disputed as his party was not given the reserved seats.

The SIC did not win even a single seat in the Feb 8 elections, but PTI-backed independents have joined the party as part of an agreement reached between the two political parties last week. The Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) has yet to notify some members on reserved seats, including 24 for women and three for minorities.

New PTI nominee

Speculations that Aslam Iqbal arrived at the Punjab Assembly and was arrested by the Lahore police continued throughout the second day of the session. Earlier, the rumours had prompted Sibtain Khan to announce issuing his production orders. However, as Aslam Iqbal could not come to his house due to fear of arrest in the May 9 riots cases despite getting bail from the Peshawar High Court, he was replaced by Rana Aftab Ahmad Khan.

The election for the CM office between Maryam Nawaz and Aftab Khan is expected to be held on Sunday (today); there has been no official confirmation though.

PTI leader and former federal minister Hammad Azhar said on X: “As the police of the whole Punjab are present at the Punjab Assembly to arrest our CM candidate Aslam Iqbal, the party leadership in consultation with Mr Iqbal has decided to nominate Rana Aftab Ahmad Khan for the CM slot. Rana Aftab is the senior most member of the PA who in the past got elected PA member five times.”

Mr Azhar claimed that according to Form 45, the SIC/PTI had 212 MPAs while PMLN had 44 MPAs as a matter of fact. “The current number of PML-N in the house is a product of stolen mandate on Feb 8,” he added.