Crisis persists in Punjab

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AS representatives of the business community have demanded that Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif should declare economic emergency in the country and take urgent steps to avoid a Sri Lanka-like situation, political tension and the resultant uncertainty persists, especially in relation to Punjab where, instead of resolving the crisis, the re-election of the Chief Minister has deepened the political divide further.

The election exercise sprung surprises as veteran politician Ch. Shujaat Hussain, who heads the PML-Q, decided at the last moment that his MPAs (10 in number) would not cast their vote in favour of the candidate of Imran Khan – Chaudhry Pervaiz Elahi – and as a consequence Deputy Speaker Dost Muhammad Mazari rejected ten votes, which paved the way for the success of the incumbent Chief Minister Hamza Shehbaz, who won the election by three votes.

There had been allegations of horse-trading by both sides ahead of run-off election for the office of the Chief Minister as per directions of the Lahore High Court and the Supreme Court of Pakistan and even intervention of the courts was sought to prevent this practice and the possible use of state machinery to influence the outcome.

However, political wheeling-dealing by seasoned Asif Ali Zardari and PML-Q Chief Chaudhry Shujaat Hussain made all the difference as the former convinced the latter to write a letter to the Deputy Speaker telling him that he has directed his party MPAs to vote for Hamza and not to count their votes in case of violation of the directive.

The smart move by PDM turned tables depriving Pervaiz Elahi, once again, the opportunity to grab the office of Chief Minister despite earlier indications that he enjoyed a comfortable majority with 186 votes as against 179 by Hamza Shehbaz.

Shujaat’s letter in accordance with the latest interpretation of the Article-63A by the apex court, came as a big surprise to Pervaiz Elahi and PTI and viewing the dramatic change in the tally of votes, attempts were made to get favourable clarification from Shujaat Hussain and Moonis Elahi even went to his house for the purpose but stuck to the position that PML-Q would not vote for the candidate of Imran Khan.

At this, PML-Q MPAs decided to revolt against the directive of the party head on the plea that they were doing so on the directive of the parliamentary leader, who has the power to issue such directions.

However, in the presence of a clear-cut verdict of the Supreme Court, the Deputy Speaker did not count their votes and as a result Hamza retained the position.

PDM is celebrating the victory and PML-N leadership is expressing gratitude to Shujaat and Zardari for their crucial and timely move but PTI is agitating against the outcome and has also approached the Supreme Court.

Hamza has been administered a fresh oath by the provincial Governor but the decision of PTI to dispute the outcome and challenge it in the Supreme Court means the crisis and consequential uncertainty persist.

This does not augur well for the overall interest of the country as the nature of the economic crisis demands not just a peaceful environment in the country but also consensus decisions and measures to prevent a Sri Lanka-like situation.

The suggestion of the prominent businessmen should not be taken lightly as all of them are in the full know of the actual economic conditions and the need to take corrective measures as they too are one of the major stakeholders in the economy.

They represented chambers of commerce and industry, stock exchange, industrial, textile and exporters’ associations, builders and developers and other leaders representing large-scale manufacturing, small and medium enterprises, wholesalers and retailers and made a call after their emergent meeting to discuss the prevailing economic situation.

There is surely logic in their demand that the Prime Minister should immediately call a National Economic Council meeting and take on board all political parties, including the PTI and defence forces to make day-to-day decisions on the economy but the question arises whether other stakeholders are as sensitive to the grim economic scenario as businessmen.

The question is absolute no as political instability is allowed to deepen with the passage of time and as a result the Government is not finding peace of mind to address the economic challenge squarely. Time is running fast and all-encompassing corrective measures must be taken now.

 

 

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