LAHORE: Newly elected representatives from Pakistan’s most politically important province of Punjab will take oath today, Friday, at the provincial legislative assembly’s inaugural session, as the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) party of former Prime Minister Imran Khan announced protests outside the building against what it calls the ‘rigging’ of Feb. 8 general elections.
An agreement to form a coalition government between Bilawal Bhutto Zardari’s Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) and the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) of three-time Premier Nawaz Sharif late Tuesday night ended days of uncertainty and negotiations after an inconclusive Feb. 8 election produced a hung national assembly.
PML-N’s 79 and the PPP’s 54 seats in the National Assembly, or lower house of parliament, together make a simple majority to form a government, though the two parties will also rope in smaller parties in the coalition. Independent candidates backed by Imran Khan won 93 seats, but do not have the numbers to form a government. He and his party have rejected the results of the elections, alleging widespread rigging.
“Those Tehreek-e-Insaf candidates who won the Punjab Provincial Assembly election but have been defeated due to the forgery of Form 47 should protest peacefully in front of the Punjab Provincial Assembly tomorrow at 10 am along with supporters,” Hammad Azhar, PTI’s general secretary for central Punjab, said on X. “Everyone should join this protest.”
A party requires 186 members to form the government in Punjab. The PML-N won the greatest number of seats in the province, 137, has been joined by about two dozen independent members and is also likely to bag a significant number of reserved seats for women and minorities which are allocated based on the number of seats won in polls.
Outgoing Punjab Assembly speaker, Sibtain Khan, will administer the oath to the members of the new assembly. The session will then be prorogued to be summoned anew for the election of the new speaker and deputy speaker of the house, to be followed by the election of the leader of the house, that is the chief minister.
The Punjab Assembly is the largest elected house in the country, with 371 seats, comprising 297 general seats and 74 reserved seats, including 66 for women and eight for minorities.
The province of more than 127 million people, over half of Pakistan’s population, is known as the country’s most heated battleground, contributing 173 of the 326 seats in Pakistan’s Parliament and is the heartland of the nation’s political, military and industrial elite.
Historically, the party that secures a stronghold in Punjab often manages to form the government at the center. Maryam Nawaz Sharif, the daughter of three-time former PM Nawaz Sharif, is poised to make history as the first woman chief minister of a Pakistani province. The PML-N’s candidate for prime minister is Shehbaz Sharif, Nawaz’s brother.