Lahore: With 179 members in the 17th Punjab Assembly, the Pakistan Tehrik-e-Insaf (PTI) is the single largest party in the House. It has yet to announce its nominee for the chief minister’s office, but the party that canvassed on the Naya Pakistan (a changed Pakistan) slogan is all set to form its government in the largest province of the country. At the inaugural session of the provincial legislature on Wednesday, the change seemed visible to the extent that there were many new faces in the House, 234 of its 371 members not being in the 16th Assembly whose five-year tenure ended earlier this year. Most of these members got elected on PTI tickets. Yet, tn terms of optics, the session belonged to the same old players of Punjab’s politics. When Pakistan Muslim League-Quaid head Chaudhry Pervaiz Elahi, nominated for the speaker’s slot by the PTI, walked into the House, for instance, a large number of PTI’s newly-elected MPAs stood from their seats and started thumping their desks to receive him. Many of these were former Q-Leaguers who joined the PTI in the last few years. Accompanying Elahi was Chaudhry Zaheeruddin, his close aide who served in Elahi’s 2002-2007 cabinet but won the 2018 election from a Faisalabad constituency on the PTI ticket. Zaheeruddin walked with Elahi and introduced him to several MPAs of the majority party.Meanwhile, PML-N lawmakers took the opportunity to remind the PTI leadership of party chairman Imran Khan’s statements on the PML-Q in the past. They chanted Kal ka Daaku… Aaj ka Bhai… Pervaiz Elahi… Pervaiz Elahi (A thief in the past but now he’s like a brother). Elahi and Zaheerud Din took seats in the front row. Sitting close by was Dr Murad Ras, an PTI MPA from Lahore. The press gallery echoed with rumours that Dr Ras may be up for an important assignment in the provincial cabinet, given the respect accorded to him by the MPAs.While all the PML-N MPAs came wearing black arm bands to protest the incarceration of Nawaz Sharif, his daughter Maryam Nawaz and son-in-law Capt (retd) Safdar, some took the ‘suffering’ of their leaders too close to their heart. Zaibunnisa Awan, who got elected on PML-N ticket on a reserved seat, got into a brawl with the security staff who wouldn’t let her bring a portrait of Nawaz into the Assembly premises. She won in the end, and walked triumphantly into the House raising slogans in support of the former Prime Minister. A minority seat MPA of PML-N, Tariq Masih Gill, walked into the House in chains ‘to show solidarity with Nawaz Sharif. However, the gimmick did not sit well with outgoing Speaker Rana Iqbal, who won on a PML-N ticket from Kasur. Concerned about the decorum of the House, Iqbal chided Gill and asked him to remove the chains but the latter refused to budge . When he approached the speaker for a customary handshake following the signing of the XX, Iqbal turned down the request and again asked him to discard the chains, but Gill stood ground. PML-N MPAs welcomed Khwaja Saad Rafique, who returned to the Punjab Assembly after 18 years, and Hamza Shehbaz Sharif, the party’s candidate for the CM election, with Dekho Dekho Kon Aya… Sher Aya Sher Aya slogans. Both leaders took seats in the front row and remained busy in a conversation for a long time during the session. Many of the party’s women MPAs also raised Vote ko Izzat Do (respect the ballot) slogan introduced by Nawaz and Maryam after the former’s disqualification by the Supreme Court in the Panama Papers case.Aleem Khan, who headed the PTI machinery in central Punjab, kept a low profile for the most part as he remained seated in the back row. Only when he came to sign the Roll of Call did his supporters chant Dekho dekho kaun aya, Sher ka shikari aya.During the proceedings of the day, 353 MPAs in the 371-member House were administered oath by the outgoing speaker. With the PTI increasing its strength from 30 members in the last tenure of the Assembly to 179, the PML-N has lost the lead for the first time after 2008. It is the second largest party with 164 members, while Q-League and Pakistan Peoples Party have 10 and seven MPAs, respectively.As many as 13 seats still remain vacant due to various reasons. Elections were postponed in PP-87 Mianwali, PP-103 Faisalabad and PP-296 Rajanpur, and results were withheld in PP-76 Sargodha, PP-118 Toba Tek Singh and PP-177 Kasur. Seven MPAs-elect resigned from their seats to retain National Assembly seats they had won. These included PML-N’s Shehbaz Sharif (resigned from two provincial assembly seats in Lahore) and PTI’s Fawad Chaudhry who gave up a PP seat in Jhelum to retain an NA seat from the same district. Makhdoom Hashim Jawan Bakht resigned from a seat in Rahim Yar Khan, since he won on two seats in the district. Rai Murtaza Iqbal retained his NA seat, while resigning from a provincial seat in Sahiwal. Makhdom Basit Sultan Bukhari also retained his NA seat and vacated the provincial seat he won from Muzaffargarh. Tahir Sadiq resigned from a provincial seat in Attock.Prominent among those absent from the inaugural session were estranged PML-N leader Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan, who won as an independent, and PML-N reserved seat MPA Uzma Qadri, wife of Zaeem Qadri.Prominent among those who took the oath included Raja Basharat, Pervaiz Elahi, Aleem Khan, Mian Aslam Iqbal, Dr Yasmin Rashid, Jugnu Mohsin, Mian Mehmoodur Rasheed, Hussain Jahanian Gardezi, Hussain Dareshak, and Chaudhry Iqbal Gujjar. Syed Ali Haider Gillani, son of former PM Yousaf Raza Gillani who was abducted by Talibans in 2013, also took the oath and became an MPA for the first time.The 17th Assembly will have three former speakers as its members: Rana Iqbal Khan, Afzal Sahi and Pervaiz Elahi. Nawabzada Manssor Khan, son of veteran politician Nawabzada Nasrullah Khan, also became a member of the House.The session was adjourned till Thursday (today) morning when elections for the speaker and deputy speaker will take place. Pervaiz Elahi will face PML-N’s Chaudhry Iqbal Gujjar, a veteran parliamentarian from Gujranwala, for the speaker’s slot; and Sardar Dost Muhammad Mazari of PTI will contend against Muhammad Waras Shad, an MPA from Khushab, of PML-N for the deputy speaker’s slot.A resolution was also submitted on the very first day of the inaugural session by PTI’s Mohsin Laghari demanding a separate province to be carved out of southern Punjab districts.Published in Daily Times, August 16th 2018.