KP govt overstepped authority on cabinet size, AG acknowledges

Published May 29, 2021
KP Assembly session in progress. —  Dawn/File
KP Assembly session in progress. — Dawn/File

PESHAWAR: Khyber Pakhtunkhwa advocate general Shumail Ahmad Butt on Friday acknowledged that the provincial government had exceeded its constitutional authority by inducting more ministers than the permissible number.

Mr Butt conveyed his legal opinion on the size of the cabinet to Speaker of the provincial assembly Mushtaq Ahmad Ghani over the phone for being out of town.

Through a ruling given during a session, the speaker directed him to appear in the house on Monday for a detailed opinion on the matter.

The government found itself in hot water when opposition Pakistan Peoples Party MPA Ahmad Kundi said on a point of order that the cabinet’s strength reached 17 after the induction of four new ministers, who took their oath on April 13.

The government had notified Atif Khan, Fazal Shakoor Khan, Shakeel Ahmed Khan and Faisal Amin Gandapur as members of the cabinet.

Later, portfolios of Atif Khan, Fazal Shakoor Khan and Shakeel Ahmed Khan were notified. However, Faisal Amin Gandapur, younger brother of federal minister Ali Amin Gandapur, has yet to be assigned a portfolio.

PA speaker calls him to house for detailed opinion on matter

Besides ministers, the government also appointed one adviser and nine special assistants to the chief minister and three parliamentary secretaries.

The lawmaker said the government had blatantly violated Article 130(6) of the Constitution, which declared that the total strength of the cabinet should be 15 or 11 per cent of the total membership of the assembly, which currently stood at 145.

He, however, said the provincial cabinet’s current strength, including the chief minister, was 17 in violation of the Constitution.

The opposition member requested the chair to give a ruling on the matter.

He said the Constitution had been violated, so the business of the assembly and the orders and decisions of the government were illegal and unconstitutional.

Speaker Mushtaq Ghani, who presided over the sitting, said Mr Kundi had raised a very valid point and therefore, minister for law and parliamentary affairs Fazal Shakoor Khan should respond to it.

The law minister informed the house that the cabinet’s strength was 16 as one minister was without portfolio. However, the chair didn’t agree to the argument.

Speaker Mushtaq Ghani later gave the floor to labour minister Shaukat Ali Yousafzai, who said the advocate general had been consulted on the issue, while the government had also referred the matter to the law minister.

He assured the chair that the government would submit a reply to it to the assembly on Monday.

Speaker Ghani issued orders for calling advocate general Shumail Ahmad Butt to the house at once for giving opinion on the issue.

When the chair was informed that the advocate general was not present in Peshawar, he directed the relevant officials to learn about his opinion over the telephone.

After a short while, the speaker said he received a note from the AG declaring that the stand of MPA Kundi was right in the ‘present context’.

He said the AG would come to the assembly on Monday to give a detailed opinion on the composition of the cabinet.

The speaker said any constitutional act of the government didn’t affect the assembly business.

He issued another ruling asking Chief Minister Mahmood Khan to request to the chief justice of Peshawar High Court to constitute a judicial commission headed by a high court judge to hold an impartial inquiry into the illegal plot allotments and encroachment in Bannu city and adjacent areas.

The ruling came after the lawmakers from southern districts completed discussion on an adjournment motion of Opposition Leader Akram Khan Durrani about the demolition of a huge structure at an intersection in the middle of Bannu city and the scrap auction without tender.

He alleged that the deputy commissioner of Bannu and commissioner of Bannu Division, who enjoyed the backing of a senior bureaucrat, were involved in illegal practices.

The opposition leader insisted that those bureaucrats considered themselves to be above the law.

Without directly blaming Akram Durrani, members of the ruling Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf said some influential people were trying to stop the administration from taking action against encroachers in the city.

They said the commercial property occupied by influential people in different localities of the town and along the main irrigation canal valued around Rs11 billion.

Later, the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Probation and Parole Bill, 2021, was introduced in the house with the objective to regulate the probation of convicts, their rehabilitation and reintegration and matters relating to parole in the province.

The bill is meant to repeal the existing laws on the subject, including Probation of Offenders Ordinance, 1960, and Good Conduct Prisoners Release Act, 1926, to the extent of KP.

The chair adjourned the session until 2pm on Monday.

Published in Dawn, May 29th, 2021

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