PML-N leader Hamza Shahbaz moved the Lahore High Court (LHC) on Saturday against the "unlawful" removal of Punjab Chief Secretary Kamran Ali Afzal and Inspector-General of Police (IGP) Rao Sardar Ali Khan.
LHC Chief Justice Amir Bhatti has taken up the petition and will hear it on April 11.
Yesterday, the federal government decided to transfer the chief secretary and IGP after they allegedly refused to ‘sort out’ the PTI dissidents to stop them from voting for the opposition candidate in the Punjab Assembly (PA).
The provincial assembly has to elect the new leader of the house after Usman Buzdar resigned last month. PML-Q's Chaudhry Pervaiz Elahi and PML-N's Hamza, who has secured the support of PTI's dissident lawmakers — the Jahangir Khan Tarin and Aleem Khan groups — are expected to go head to head in the race to become the next chief minister.
In today's petition, a copy of which is available with Dawn.com, Hamza named the Government of Punjab, chief secretary, and the IGP as respondents.
It stated that Buzdar's resignation was accepted on April 1 and, since then, the powers he assumed are that of the caretaker chief minister.
"The postings and transfers of the officers such as Chief Secretary and Inspector General of Police of the province can only be made in consultation with the provincial government.
"It is also an admitted position that the provincial cabinet does not exist, therefore, essentially no provincial government exists. Hence such appointments/postings/transfers are without lawful authority," Hamza argued.
He also said that as the process of Punjab chief minister's elections had begun, the matter of transfers and postings had to be halted since such moves had all the trappings of "unfair, partial and arbitrary interference in the election process".
The honourable courts too, the PML-N leader pointed out, had deprecated and set aside transfers and postings during the election process. "The impugned transfers at such level, during the pending process of the election of the Chief Minister, and in particular, subsequent to the issuance of notices by this Hon’ble Court, clearly exhibits unholy designs and audacious conduct of the respondents."
Consequently, the petitioner requested that the transfer of the chief secretary and IG should be stayed and the respondents should be restrained from taking illegal action during the process of elections.
Axe falls on Punjab chief secretary, IGP
Sources told Dawn that both Chief Secretary Kamran Ali Afzal and IGP Rao Sardar Ali Khan were summoned by Chief Minister Usman Buzdar on Friday.
The chief minister, flanked by PML-Q leaders, insisted that they should round up the PTI dissident MPAs and ensure that they should not vote for the opposition’s CM candidate.
The chief secretary and the IGP are said to have refused to indulge in the illegal activity and the PML-Q leaders demanded that they both be replaced.
Prime Minister Imran Khan had himself assured Parvez Elahi of all possible help needed ahead of his election as chief minister, during his one-on-one meeting a few days ago at the Governor House, Lahore.
Sources said the chief minister had moved two summaries for the prime minister to replace the chief secretary and the IGP. For the chief secretary’s replacement, the chief minister had given the names of former principal secretary Tahir Khurshid, Yousaf Bashir Khokhar and Planning and Development Board chairman Abdullah Khan Sumbal.
Sumbal, however, immediately requested that his candidature might be withdrawn.
Similarly, the chief minister moved a summary for the appointment of a new IGP while giving a panel – Lahore CCPO Fayyaz Dev, former IG Islamabad Amir Zulfiqar Khan and former Punjab IGP Inam Ghani.
Meanwhile, an interesting debate on the replacement of top officers began when PML-N leader Khawaja Asif tweeted saying that the chief secretary and Punjab IG P refused to act illegally to arrest defecting PTI members and make them disappear till the time of vote for the chief minister. He also stated that the Punjab government had asked the federal govt to remove them and post persons of their choice.
Soon afterwards, PML-Q leader Moonis Elahi responded in a tweet telling that he (Khawaja Asif) had admitted that there were PTI MPAs who would be voting against their party directions. “Thank you for supporting implementation of defection clause. I hope you will uphold the Constitution of Pakistan,” Elahi added in his tweet.
PML-N holding MPAs 'hostage', says PML-Q
Meanwhile, the PML-Q also approached the high court today, accusing the PML-N of keeping MPAs hostage at a private hotel in Lahore.
The writ petition, filed by PML-Q Senator Kamil Ali Agha, impleaded LHC to name PML-N leader Hamza Shahbaz as a respondent in the case.
It stated that PML-N, along with others, was trying to "change the loyalty of our members illegally, without any right against the Constitution and fundamental rights of the applicant".
"The party hostages our members of Provincial Assembly in a hotel and they are not allowed to meet anyone, even their family members," the petition added.