LAHORE: The 17th elected assembly of Punjab held its inaugural session on Wednesday, during which 354 newly elected members took the oath of office.
The outgoing speaker, Rana Muhammad Iqbal, administered the oath to new members of the legislature and announced the schedule for the elections of speaker and deputy speaker of the new assembly, which will take place on Thursday morning.
The Punjab assembly is the biggest legislature of the country with 371 members, followed by the national assembly of Pakistan with 342 seats.
In Wednesday’s session, 354 members took the oath as the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) had withheld the results of three constituencies while the election on another three had been postponed.
The seven members, including PML-N president Shahbaz Sharif, who were elected on national and provincial assembly seats simultaneously, have opted to be members of the National Assembly and vacated their provincial assembly seats.
Two members-elect — Tariq Dreshak from Rajan Pur and Ghulam Abbas Khaaki from Bhakkar — passed away before joining the House. The two belonged to Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI).
Another two members-elect, former PML-N stalwart Chaudhary Nisar Ali Khan and Uzma Zaeem Qadri, wife of former PML-N provincial minister, Zaeem Qadri, did not take the oath.
Currently the PTI has 175 members in the assembly while its ally, Pakistan Muslim League-Quaid-e-Azam (PML-Q), has 10 members. The Hafiz Saeed-backed Rah-e-Haq party has one member in the House while the number of independent candidates is three. The PML-N and Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) have 162 and 10 members, respectively.
Of the 354 who took the oath on Wednesday, more than 185 are new faces and have never been a member of any legislature before.
Similarly, of the 66 seats reserved for women, 41 are newcomers and among the eight seats reserved for the non-Muslim population of Punjab, five are joining a legislative house for the first time.
Of the 66 women legislators selected on a reserved seat, 39 belong to the same city — Lahore.
This time the Punjab legislature has heavyweights including Chaudhary Pervaiz Elahi, Hamza Shahbaz Sharif, Khawaja Saad Rafique, Raja Basharat, Afzal Sahi and Rana Iqbal Khan as members.
Pervaiz Elahi is a former (ceremonial) deputy prime minister of the country and has served in Punjab as chief minister and speaker of the Assembly. He has been elected since 1985 and has not lost any election. He was once a close aide of the Sharif brothers until joining the then King’s party, the PML-Q, created after the October 1999 military coup. Elahi became chief executive of the province after the 2002 polls.
Hamza Shahbaz is the son of former chief minister of Punjab, Shahbaz Sharif. He made his maiden entry in the House as he had been declared successful in the past three elections for a provincial assembly seat but preferred to be a member of the national assembly since he won that seat as well. This time, his father has joined the National Assembly and the son has been nominated as a candidate for the chief minister’s slot as well as the opposition leader, in case he loses.
Muhammad Basharat Raja, Chaudhry Zaheeruddin, Ahmed Ali Aulakh and Chaudhry Iqbal are senior politicians and have served as ministers more than once. Three former speakers, Chaudhry Pervaiz Elahi, Rana Iqbal and Afzal Sahi, are also part of the 17th assembly of the province.
The members, after taking the oath, signed the ‘Role of Members’ peacefully and slogans were raised when the party leaders went on to a rostrum to inscribe their signature on the register. The PML-N members, however, attended the proceedings wearing symbolic black bands on their arms.
The candidates for the slots of speaker and deputy speaker of the Punjab Assembly also filed their nomination papers. For the office of speaker, Chaudhry Pervaiz Elahi submitted his papers. He is the joint candidate of PTI and PML-Q while the PTI candidate for deputy speaker is Sardar Dost Muhammad Mazari. He is the grandson of the former caretaker prime minister of Pakistan, Balkh Sher Mazari.
The PML-N candidate for the office of speaker is Chaudhry Muhammad Iqbal while his covering candidate is Mujtaba Shujaur Rehman. The candidate for the deputy speaker’s office is Waris Kallo while Rana Ejaz Noon is his covering candidate.