LAHORE: Rumours that Punjab Chief Minister-elect Hamza Shehbaz will take the oath at the Governor House on Saturday died down in the afternoon when the president tweeted that the prime minister’s summary regarding the Lahore High Court order is under consideration.
Since the high court “expected” the president to nominate any person to administer the oath to Hamza, several rumours were rife on TV channels on Saturday — from President Dr Arif Alvi himself visiting Lahore to the Senate chairman reaching the Punjab capital for the purpose.
The rumours about the president carrying out the duty changed focus after Senate Chairman Sadiq Sanjrani called on Dr Alvi at the Presidency in Islamabad, and social media was abuzz that Mr Sanjrani would soon reach Lahore for the constitutional duty. These reports, too, died down when the president of Pakistan’s official Twitter handle stated:
“The summary received from the Prime Minister’s Office on April 23 regarding the order of the Lahore High Court passed on April 22, is under consideration of the Honorable President as per the Constitution of the Islamic Republic of Pakistan.”
As the constitutional crisis lingers on for the PML-N, which is desperate for Hamza Shehbaz taking over the reins of Punjab as the chief minister, its leaders are becoming jittery, saying Pakistan’s largest province was without a chief executive and a cabinet — the apex body to run the affairs of the government.
“The constitutional crisis that erupted on April 1 is not ending anytime soon,” said PML-N central deputy secretary general Atta Tarar at a press conference here on Saturday.
President says considering PM’s summary on high court order
He said the LHC had instructed that the oath-taking should not be delayed, but the governor did not follow the Constitution and allegedly on his party leader’s instructions, got himself admitted to a hospital.
‘President not liable to contempt’
On the other hand, the PTI and PML-Q coalition camp is confident that Hamza’s oath ceremony would not be held because the president was not obliged to follow the instructions of the Lahore High Court. “The president and governor will not be liable to contempt by not fulfilling anyone’s wishes,” a PTI leader told Dawn.
“If the PML-N does not like the president, it should impeach him,” he commented, adding that the ruling coalition in the Centre did not enjoy a two-third majority to oust a president through impeachment.
For changing a governor, though, the coalition has sent a summary that the president can hold for 15 days, and further wait for 10 more days when the prime minister re-endorses the same summary.
In the meantime, Punjab Assembly Speaker Chaudhry Parvez Elahi has sent a reference to the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) against 26 dissident PTI MPAs, who had voted for the opposition’s candidate in the Punjab chief minister’s election against their party instructions and discipline. The speaker has sought the ECP declare the MPAs defected from the PTI.
The provincial ruling alliance of the PTI and PML-Q says the ECP was bound to decide the fate of the dissident MPAs within 30 days, and believes the process of defection would begin early as the commission would issue notices to the defected MPAs.
In order to exert more pressure on the ECP, it is reliably learnt that the PTI would be approaching the Lahore High Court next week for its direction that the commission decide the references sent by the speaker.
Meanwhile, the PML-N leaders at the presser said the high court chief justice had asserted that the chief minister-elect’s oath could not be delayed, but the governor disregarded the order. Mr Tarar said the PML-N would now file a contempt of court plea for delaying the oath ceremony.
Flanked by his party leaders Awais Leghari, Malik Ahmad Khan, Rana Mashhood, Khalil Tahir Sandhu, Khawaja Imran Nazir, Mr Tarar said: “Governor Omer Sarfraz Cheema will be remembered as an abrogator of the Constitution in the political history of Pakistan.”
He said Mr Cheema had sworn on oath to be loyal to the Constitution, but he was proving to be more loyal to PTI Chairman Imran Khan. He lamented that Mr Cheema had dishonoured the constitutional office of the governor.
Mr Tarar further said the Lahore High Court had ordered that the president nominate any person to administer the oath to chief minister-election Hamza Shehbaz without waiting for a letter from the governor explaining his inability to administer the oath at 6pm on Friday, but Dr Alvi was still busy “considering” acting upon the court ruling.
The PML-N deputy secretary general said the PTI was seeking revenge from Punjab because it had not given the party a complete mandate in the 2018 general elections. He stressed the president could not hold back the CM-elect’s oath and was bound to act upon the advice of the prime minister.
He claimed the president wrote to the prime minister asking how he should act upon the LHC ruling, and the prime minister sent back a summary asking the president to nominate the Senate chairman to administer the oath to the Punjab CM-elect. “Life in Punjab has come to a grinding halt just because of one person’s ego,” the PML-N leader bemoaned.
Malik Ahmad Khan said the PTI had lost its majority, but was not ready to accept it. He said the PTI government could not deliver and eventually unraveled. He stressed the PTI leadership should accept the Constitution and stop trying to occupy corridors of power by hook or by crook.
Published in Dawn, April 24th, 2022