LAHORE: Punjab Governor Omer Sarfraz Cheema on Sunday declined to administer the oath to newly-elected Chief Minister Hamza Shehbaz, stating that the Punjab Assembly secretary’s report, the Lahore High Court’s instructions and the facts presented to him raised questions on the validity of the chief minister’s election.
“I have written to the Punjab advocate general and the Punjab Assembly speaker to seek their opinion on the assembly secretary’s report, LHC directions and other facts to make up my mind whether to hold the oath-taking ceremony at the Governor House or not,” he said.
The governor told a press conference that he could not endorse anything beyond the ambit of the Constitution.
The principal secretary to governor, however, immediately wrote to him that the assembly secretary’s report had been found one-sided, biased and politically motivated and added that he (the secretary) had no power under any provision of the Constitution, the law or the Rules of the Punjab Assembly 1997 to call into question the declaration of the result by the Deputy Speaker, who was duly authorised by the Lahore High Court to conduct the election for the office of chief minister.
His principal secy believes this would be ‘constitutional violation’; Cheema holds his ground amid reports of removal
The principal secretary asserted that no power was vested in the governor under the Constitution or any law to set aside the election on any grounds whatsoever. “The
honourable governor may render himself liable for constitutional violations, if he were to do so,” he stated and added, “The Punjab Assembly secretary had in all probability rendered himself liable to contempt proceedings for a completely illegal report that smacks of mala fide.”
Meanwhile, the PML-N too lost hope that Hamza Shehbaz’s oath-taking will take place on Sunday and the party postponed the celebrations it announced earlier.
As the governor was holding the presser, a news item quoting PML-N central spokesperson Maryam Aurangzeb also came to light, where she claimed that the governor had been removed from his office by Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif using his discretionary powers.
The governor, however, rejected the claim, saying he held a constitutional office and would continue to hold it. “Only the president of Pakistan has the power to de-notify a governor, which has yet not been done,” he asserted.
Soon afterwards, former federal information minister Fawad Chaudhry came to the governor’s rescue and tweeted, “President of Pakistan Dr Arif Alvi has contradicted a news item that the Punjab governor had been removed”.
Mr Chaudhry endorsed the view that only the president had the powers to do so and no summary for the removal of the governor had yet reached the president’s office. Therefore, he said, Governor Cheema would continue working as the Punjab governor.
However, sources told Dawn that Shehbaz Sharif had, in fact, moved a summary asking the president to remove the governor.
In his presser, the governor also lambasted PML-N legislators for violating the law and Constitution, saying they should have shown tolerance. he added that PML-N lawmakers had set the wrong precedent. “If Hamza Shehbaz had a majority, he should not have shown such intolerance that made the whole election controversial,” he added.
The governor said the deputy speaker demonstrate he was partisan while conducting the election and he called goons to torture PTI and PML-Q MPAs as well as Speaker Chaudhry Parvez Elahi.
Answering a question, the governor said PTI and PML-Q MPAs attacked the deputy speaker because they saw that their own deputy speaker favouring the opposition party.
Though Deputy Speaker Dost Muhammad Mazari had suspended the assembly secretary and three other officials for being uncooperative and refusing lawful directions on Saturday, the governor summoned a report about the conduct of the election from the assembly secretary.
In his three-page report, the secretary stated that the deputy speaker had entered the house with his personal guards as well as his Punjab police detail, who manhandled the parliamentarians. Later, he stated, the deputy speaker called the deputy commissioner and DIG Operations summoned a heavy contingent of police. He stated that he explained that no other than the sergeants-at-arms could perform any duty on the floor of the house.
The assembly secretary stated that the deputy speaker conducted the election process from the Officers’ Box with a megaphone, which was contrary to the Assembly Rules and Procedures.
The principal secretary, in his detailed letter to the governor, said the report was one-sided, biased and politically motivated. He stated that the deputy speaker had declared the result and communicated the same to the governor i.e. Hamza Shehbaz Sharif had been elected by 197 votes constituting an absolute majority of the total membership of the Punjab Assembly.
The principal secretary also cited the deputy speaker’s April 16 order, wherein the assembly secretary was suspended from service with immediate effect and his entry on the assembly premises was banned.
Meanwhile, former prime minister Imran Khan tweeted that the proceedings conducted at the Punjab Assembly were against the spirit of constitutional articles and democratic norms. He further stated that no one had presided over the chief minister’s election process as the speaker’s chair was vacant.
“We reject this so-called chief minister election under the cover of mafia,” he added in the tweet.
Published in Dawn, April 18th, 2022