With the general elections out of the way and the resultant national and provincial assemblies having taken shape, today at 3:30 pm is when the parliament elects its new leader of the house — the person who will be known as the 21st prime minister of Pakistan.
Since the Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf emerged as the biggest parliamentary party in the wake of the July 25 polls, its candidate Imran Khan is considered the clear favourite for the post.
Khan has been the PTI’s unanimous choice for the PM’s job, especially after all 120 of the party’s parliamentary committee members rubber-stamped his candidacy for the post.
Although the clear favourite, however, Khan is unlikely to prise away the premiership without a fight.
The PTI had, on its own, bagged 116 NA seats in the polls before recruiting nine additional independents, which took its tally to 125.
The party were subsequently allotted 33 reserved seats by the Election Commission of Pakistan last week, which sent its tally to 158.
However, that tally has since been trimmed as Khan, a winner on five NA seats, kept only his Mianwali seat and vacated the other four. Ghulam Sarwar Khan and Tahir Sadiq also had to leave one of the two NA seats they had bagged each, cutting PTI’s lead by six.
PTI spokesperson Fawad Chaudhry had earlier claimed that his party, with the help of its allies, has garnered the support of 180 plus NA members — at least eight more than required for a simple majority and enough to get Khan elected PM in the first poll.
However, PML-Q, a key PTI ally, has also seen its quartet of NA seats reduced by half as their party leader Chaudhry Pervaiz Elahi — a candidate for the Speaker of Punjab Assembly — also vacated both his seats in the lower house of the parliament.
The aforesaid seat vacations mean that Chaudhry’s claim could be put to the test today.
The PTI’s perceived struggle in establishing its dominance had offered a glimmer of hope to Shahbaz Sharif — the opposition’s joint candidate for the PM’s gig.
The decision to nominate him was made as part of an agreement between the three main opposition parties — the PML-N, PPP and the MMA-P — during an All Parties Conference.
However, less than 24 hours before the election, PPP decided to “abstain” from today’s vote due to refusal of the PML-N to replace its candidate, making the contest a one-sided affair.
Sources told Dawn that using backdoor channels, the PML-N had contacted the PPP leadership many times throughout the day on Thursday, asking it to review its decision in the larger interest of the opposition’s unity — but the PPP refused to reverse its decision.
The eleventh-hour rift and retraction further dented whatever chance the joint opposition had against Khan today.
How the prime minister is elected
The prime minister is elected by Members of the National Assembly (MNAs) in accordance with the Second Schedule of the Rules of Procedure and Conduct of Business in the National Assembly, 2007.
To be a candidate for prime minister, one has to be an MNA. As the first step, the candidate has to be proposed for the position of prime minister by any fellow MNA. The nomination then has to be seconded by any another lawmaker. The candidate thus has to have a proposer and a seconder.
Since Pakistan is an Islamic Republic, the head of government also has to be of Muslim faith.
The nomination papers have to be filed to the Secretary the day before the session, by 2pm. The nomination is assessed by the Speaker of the National Assembly on the same day, by 3pm.
If they wish, candidates can withdraw their nomination at any time before polling.
As per the rules,
“Before voting commences, the Speaker shall direct that the bells be rung for five minutes to enable members not present in the Chamber to be present. Immediately after the bells stop ringing, all the entrances in the Lobby shall be locked and the Assembly staff posted at each entrance shall not allow any entry or exit through those entrances until the voting has concluded.”
“The Speaker shall read out to the Assembly the names of the validly nominated candidates who have not withdrawn, hereinafter referred to as the contesting candidates, in the order in which their nomination papers were received and proceed to hold the poll in accordance with the procedure set out in the Second Schedule.”
“The Speaker shall ask the members who wish to vote in favour of the candidate[s] to pass in single file through the entrance where tellers shall be posted to record the votes. On reaching the desk of the tellers, each member shall, in turn, call out the division number allotted to him [or her] under the rules.
The tellers shall then mark off his [or her] number on the division list, simultaneously calling out the name of the member. ln order to ensure that his [or her] vote has been properly recorded, the member shall not move off until he [or she] has clearly heard the teller call out his [or her] name. After a member has recorded his [or her] vote, he [or she] shall not return to the Chamber until bells are rung.”
At the end,
“When the Speaker finds that all the members who wished to vote have recorded their votes, he shall announce that the voting has concluded. Thereupon the Secretary shall cause the division Iist to be collected, count the recorded votes and present the result of the count to the Speaker. The Speaker shall then direct that the bells be rung for two minutes to enable the members to return to the Chamber. After the bells stop ringing, the Speaker shall announce the result to the Assembly.”
Once the votes are tallied,
“lf there is only one contesting candidate and he [or she] secures the votes of the majority of the total membership of the Assembly, the Speaker shall declare him [or her] to have been elected.”
“lf there is only one contesting candidate and he [she] fails to secure the votes of the majority of the total membership of the Assembly, all proceedings shall commence afresh.”
“lf there are two or more contesting candidates and if no contesting candidate secures such majority in the first poll, a second poll shall be held between the candidates who secure the two highest numbers of votes in the first poll and the candidate who secures a majority of votes of the members present and voting shall be declared to have been elected as Prime Minister.”
“If the number of votes secured by two or more candidates securing the highest number of votes is equal, further poll shall be held between them until one of them secures a majority of the votes of the members present and voting.”