From The Dawn, Lahore, February 12, 2024
After a poor showing in the February 8 Polls, the PML-N, which has about 75 seats in the National Assembly, has pitched the idea of a ‘Participatory Coalition Government’, saying not a single political party had secured the mandate to form a government in the Centre.
Former Law Minister Azam Nazeer Tarar termed this scenario ‘Hobson’s choice’ and said that not a single political party had secured a majority in the National Assembly, insisting that elections were “fair.”
Hobson’s Choice for Parties
The PML-N leader was talking to the media after a meeting of the Party’s top brass at Jati Umra in which consultations were held regarding the future course of action.
The Ex-Minister said that the PML-N had started consultations with its former allies to form a government in the Centre.
“There is only the possibility of forming the (federal) government with the backing of the PML-N. It will be a Participatory Coalition Government,” he said, adding that it was in “the largest interest of the country that all should join hands” to form the federal government.
Other Parliamentary Parties would also be consulted before taking a final decision on the federal set-up, he added.
The government in Punjab
Mr Tarar said that the PML-N had authorised Nawaz Sharif to take a final decision in this regard and hoped that the Party would form a strong setup in the Province.
He claimed that the numerical strength of the PML-N in the Punjab Assembly had reached 155 seats as the Party had won 137 seats in the February 8 vote, while it had left open some constituencies for other parties, whose elected members “would definitely side” with the PML-N.
He claimed that at least two dozen independents emerged victorious in the provincial vote and many of them were joining the PML-N.
The former Minister regretted that attempts were being made to cast doubts on the election results, while the “whole nation saw how (fair) the elections” had been held.
Without naming the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) Party, he said that only one Party, which ‘succeeded in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa,’ had raised objections to the election results.
“We too have reservations about the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa results but we have accepted the mandate. In Punjab, top leaders like Rana Sanaullah (in Faisalabad) and Saad Rafique (in Lahore) could not succeed,” he said, citing these examples as ‘evidence’ of fair polls.
Responding to a question about challenging the results of some constituencies before the higher courts, he said the Party has formed a legal team to contest these cases.
The February 29 deadline
President Arif Alvi is duty-bound under the Constitution to summon a fresh session of the new National Assembly by February 29, as the National Assembly Secretariat (NAS) has made all arrangements to welcome the newly elected members.
Meanwhile, wheeling and dealing among mainstream political parties are underway with about 150 covet positions, including the Prime Minister, up for grabs. And a statement by the PTI chairman that the Party would not make an alliance with anyone may open the floodgates to horse trading, analysts fear.
According to Section 91(2) of the Constitution, the President must convene the National Assembly’s session after the official announcement of election results or issuance of its notification within 21 days.
“The National Assembly shall meet on the 21st day following the day on which a general election to the assembly is held unless sooner summoned by the President,” the Constitutional Section says.
A senior NAS official told Dawn that the President was duty-bound to call the session of the National Assembly within 21 days; otherwise, the Secretariat itself could announce the summoning of the session. He said the Secretariat had made all necessary arrangements to start the new Assembly’s first session.
Public Notification and Parliament Session
The official said that according to Section 98 of the Elections Act 2017 (amended in 2023), the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) has to announce notification of consolidated results of elections within 14 days.
He said that after the announcement of the official results, independent MNAs would be given three days to join any Party they want and that on the fourth day, women members would be inducted on Reserved Seats.
He said that on the first day of the National Assembly session, the incumbent Speaker would administer the oath to new MNAs, and on the second day, the election of the new speaker and deputy speaker would take place. On the third day, the election for the office of the prime minister will be held.
Section 91(3) of the Constitution says: “After the election of the Speaker and the Deputy Speaker, the National Assembly shall, to the exclusion of any other business, proceed to elect without debate one of its Muslim members to be the Prime Minister.
According to Section 91(4), the Prime Minister “shall be elected by the votes of the majority of the total membership of the National Assembly, provided that, if no member secures such majority in the first poll, a second poll shall be held between the members who secure the two highest numbers of votes in the first poll and the member who secures a majority of votes of the members present and voting shall be declared to have been elected as Prime Minister (and) provided further that, if the number of votes secured by two or more members securing the highest number of votes is equal, further poll shall be held between them until one of them secures a majority of votes of the members present and voting.”
150 positions up for grab
It has been learnt that more than 150 coveted positions are up for grabs based on which the political parties, which are in the bargaining position, could make their possible alliance.
These positions include the office of President, as President Alvi has already completed his term but continues to be in office pending a new election by the new National Assembly.
Similarly, other desired positions include the office of the Prime Minister, Speaker and Deputy Speaker of the National Assembly, four Governors, Federal Ministers, State Ministers, Advisers to the Prime Minister, Special Assistants to the Premier, dozens of Parliamentary Secretaries, and Chairpersons of Standing Committees of the National Assembly.
Interestingly, the five-year term of half of the members of the Senate will also be over next month, and the election for about 50 vacant seats will take place, followed by the election of the Chairperson and Deputy Chairperson of the Senate.
The election of senators will also allow the political parties to accommodate themselves for future alliances.
In a message on Sunday (February 11), President Alvi congratulated the people of Pakistan for their participation in the just concluding general election.