LAHORE: Punjab Governor Omer Sarfraz Cheema has sought advice from President Arif Alvi to resolve the issue of ‘disputed elections’ for the chief minister office as well as the resignation of outgoing chief minister Usman Buzdar which was addressed to the prime minister and not to the office of the governor as required under article 130(8) of the Constitution.
In a six-page letter addressed to the president, explaining his constitutional reasons for not administering oath to the purportedly elected chief minister of Punjab, the governor stated that political impasse had erupted in the province initially due to the controversial resignation of Usman Buzdar, followed by the disputed CM elections.
After explaining the relevant articles and rules, the governor has stated that the election process for the conduct of election of the chief minister is a classic case of constitutional violations and rules framed thereunder and the order of Lahore High Court division bench.
In view of the constitutional constraints, the governor stated: “I cannot proceed for perpetuating the wrong. I desire that suitable action be devised on this constitutional upheaval to resolve an issue on which the Constitution is silent.”
In his letter, the governor said he was holding a constitutional post and required to discharge his constitutional functions with utmost care and added that he had reasons from restraining himself from administering oath to chief minister-elect Hamza Shehbaz.
As the LHC had stated in its order that he (governor) should record his reasons for delaying and not administering of the oath of the chief minister, he said he felt this was incorrect and narrated events in his defence.
Referring to the LHC division bench’s judgement, the governor said the verdict laid emphasis that the deputy speaker has to abide by his oath and to ensure conduct of election for the office of chief minister in a fair, transparent and impartial manner as well as the elections be held strictly under the Constitution.
“As per my understanding of the constitutional provisions applicable in the instant matter in terms of rules, the elections for recording of votes of the chief minister is prima facie filled with legal lacunae and loopholes which under no stretch of imagination could be plugged and seemingly and it manifest that there is a flagrant disregard of the judgement rendered by the [LHC] division bench,” the governor stated.
The governor then explained the proceedings for recording of votes for the election of chief minister at the Punjab Assembly and stated: “It becomes crystal clear that the way election of Chief Minister and recording of votes have been conducted is a sheer violation of the Second Schedule and against the spirit of the directions being given by the LHC division bench”.
The governor said the articles of constitution clarified that the governor was not bound to proceed under a mechanical way to administer oath in a situation where the whole procedure for conducting of elections had been violated. “I cannot proceed in a mechanical way under Article 130(5) of Constitution of Pakistan. Needless to bring to your knowledge that there is no time period prescribed either in the Constitution for conducting the oath,” the governor stated.
The governor also referred to Punjab Assembly secretary’s report terming it a sufficient proof “which demonstrated that the election of the chief minister was an offshoot of an unconstitutional act, henceforth, as per my Constitutional understanding and conscience as the Governor I cannot proceed under Article 130 (5) in the instant case without averting to the specific Articles of the Constitution to take oath from the chief minister whose status under the Constitution has become extremely disputed.”
Published in Dawn, April 25th, 2022