Lahore: After a decade on the fringes, the Chaudhries of Gujrat are back in the driving seat in the Punjab Assembly.Chaudhry Pervaiz Elahi, who heads Musharaf era Pakistan Muslim League-Quaid, secured the speaker’s office on Thursday winning 201 votes, 16 more than the combined number of seats of his party (10) and Pakistan Tehrik-e-Insaf (175). At least 15 of these 16 votes would have been cast by MPAs elected on tickets issued by Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N), whose candidate, Gujranwala-based Chaudhry Iqbal Gujjar, got 147 votes, 15 less than the party’s strength in the House.The PML-N did not sit back, however. Its MPAs ensured that Elahi’s return to the speaker’s seat after 21 years was an eventful occasion as they registered a strong protest on ‘massive horse-trading’.As Elahi took oath of office and met lawmakers from PTI and PML-Q, PML-N members chanted horse-trading ki sarkar… nhi chlay gi.. nhi chlay gi’ (A government formed through horse-trading will not be allowed to work) and daku speaker na nanzoor slogans. The protest continued for over half an hour. Meanwhile, Chaudhry Zaheeruddin and Raja Barashat, both former Q-Leaguers elected this time on PTI tickets, remained by Elahi’s side. The PTI loyalists were nowhere to be seen amid this action.Pro-Elahi slogans were, meanwhile, heard from the visitors’ gallery thanks to a large crowd of supporters who came from Gujrat, the hometown of Chaudries.In his speech after taking oath, Elahi said he would try to serve as the custodian of the entire House and ensure that the public interest was upheld. When some PTI lawmakers tried to respond to PML-N members’ sloganeering, he intervened and said that they should be allowed to chant slogans as they have ‘very deep wounds’.The House was adjourned for a 10-minute break before the deputy speaker’s election. However, the break lasted for over an hour as PML-N lawmakers protested what they said a theft of their mandate. The N-League’s charge outside the House was led not by a Sharif. The absence of Hamza Shehbaz, the party’s parliamentary leader, from the agitation was quite conspicuous. It was Sharifs’ close aide Khwaja Saad Rafique, who hails from the Walled City of Lahore, who led the charge instead. After efforts by a committee comprising PTI lawmakers Mian Mehmoodur Rasheed, Raja Basharat and Saeed Akbar Niwani, PML-N lawmakers returned to the House where Rafique gave a fiery speech.“We’ll strongly resist all attempts at making a forward-bloc within the PML-N,” he said, adding that his party dropped the idea of boycotting the assemblies to let the democratic system work so it should not be compelled to return to the streets.The Pakistan Peoples Party stuck to its position and stayed away from the speaker’s election, expect for its one lawmaker from Rahim Yar Khan, Raees Nabeel who was brought into the House by Pervaiz Elahi himself to cast vote in the election. The remaining six MPAs of the party, including Ali Haider Gillani, son of former Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gillani, remained away from the House during polling.Later, PTI’s Sardar Dost Muhammad Mazari took oath of the deputy speaker’s office after securing 187 votes against PML-N’s Waris Shad, who got 159 votes. As many as 348 votes were cast in the deputy speaker’s election, two of these were rejected. Newly elected Speaker Pervaiz Elahi administered the oath to Mazari, the grandson of former caretaker PM Balakh Sher Mazari.The election for the leader of the house will be held on Sunday morning. Nomination papers have so for been submitted only by PML-N’s Hamza Shehbaz.Published in Daily Times, August 17th 2018.