LAHORE: The Lahore High Court (LHC) on Wednesday advised the Punjab governor to ensure completion of the process of the administration of oath to chief minister-elect Hamza Shehbaz either himself or through his nominee not later than Thursday (today).

In a related development, the PML-N, PPP and the PTI’s dissident lawmakers in the province have decided to support Punjab Assembly Deputy Speaker Dost Muhammad Mazari as the provincial legislature is set to take up a no-trust resolution against him on Thursday.

Meanwhile, sources close to Punjab Governor Umar Sarfraz Cheema said there were no plans to administer the oath to Hamza.

A short order announced by LHC Chief Justice Muhammad Ameer Bhatti on a petition of Hamza Shehbaz said all the enabling provisions/articles of the Constitution suggested prompt formation of governments — provincial and federal. The chief justice had reserved the verdict on Tuesday after hearing arguments from the government and the petitioner’s lawyers.

PPP, PML-N, PTI dissidents to support Mazari in no-trust move to be taken up in PA today

In the order, the CJ observed that for the formation of governments, an expeditious administration of oath either by the president, governor or their nominee, as the case may be, was mandatory.

“I do not find any vacuum or space in the Constitution for causing any delay in the administration of oath required under the Constitution,” the chief justice said in his order.

Justice Bhatti observed that Punjab was being operated without a functional government for the last 25 days since the acceptance of the resignation of the then chief minister Usman Buzdar. On the other hand, the oath of the newly elected chief minister was being delayed on one pretext or the other, which was not only against democratic norms, but also against the scheme of the Constitution, he regretted.

“That being the case, it is suggested/advised/proposed that the governor shall ensure the completion of the process of administration of oath of chief minister Punjab, either himself or through his nominee, in terms of Article 255 of the Constitution, on or before April 28, 2022,” the chief justice said in the order.

He observed that the president was also under constitutional obligations to facilitate the expeditious administration of oath of the prime minister or chief minister in any province. The chief justice also suggested President Dr Arif Alvi play his role mandated by the Constitution/law, ensuring a functional provincial government in Punjab.

He directed the court’s office to immediately transmit the short order through fax to the offices of the governor and president for its placement before them.

On April 22, the LHC, in a petition of Chief Minister-elect Hamza, ruled that the governor could not refuse to swear in a newly elected chief minister of a province and expected that the president would nominate any person to administer oath to the PML-N leader without a delay.

However, the president failed to comply with the order, and Hamza filed a fresh petition asking the court to nominate the Senate chairman to carry out the duty.

Advocate Azhar Siddique told the media that an appeal would be filed against the chief justice’s order on behalf of the MPAs of the Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf and PML-Q. He said the courts could not issue directions to the president or the governor.

No-trust move against Mazari

Meanwhile, as a session of the Punjab Assembly is being convened on Thursday (today) to take up a no-trust resolution against its deputy speaker, the PML-N, PPP and PTI dissident lawmakers have decided to support Dost Mazari to return his ‘favour’ during the election of the chief minister.

“There is only one-point agenda of Thursday’s session and it is a resolution against the deputy speaker. The PTI needs the support of 186 lawmakers for the success of the motion,” a senior PA official told Dawn on Wednesday.

The voting will be held through a secret ballot. PA Speaker Chaudhry Parvez Elahi will convene the session. “Since the PTI and PML-Q will have to gather 186 votes to oust the deputy speaker, the PML-N, PPP and PTI dissidents may not take part in the voting process,” a PML-N lawmaker told Dawn.

During the session, no MPA would be allowed to take his/her mobile phone in the House. Women lawmakers have been barred from carrying their handbags on the floor, besides guests will not be allowed to witness Thursday’s session. Strict security arrangements have also been made.

PTI MPAs Basharat Raja, Ahmad Khan, Sibtain Khan and Murad Raas submitted the no-confidence resolution under clause 7(c) of Article 53 of the Constitution read with Article 127 and under Rule 12 of the Rules of the Procedure of the Punjab Assembly for the removal of Dost Muhammad Mazari from the office of the deputy speaker.

On the other hand, PML-N parliamentary and PTI dissident lawmakers held a joint meeting to chalk out a strategy for Thursday’s PA session. Of the 197 votes Hamza polled to become the CM, 26 were from the PTI’s dissidents belonging to the Tareen, Aleem and Asad Khokhar groups.

“The PML-N, PPP and PTI’s dissident lawmakers have decided to support Mazari to foil the resolution against him,” a PML-N MPA told Dawn after the meeting.

In its last meeting on April 16, the Punjab Assembly had witnessed unprecedented violence leaving many injured, including Speaker Parvez Elahi and PTI MPA Asia Amjad. The House, however, ended up electing Hamza Shehbaz, leader of the opposition in the House and the son of Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif, as the chief minister amid a boycott by PTI and PML-Q lawmakers.

Mazari, who was allegedly roped in on his side by Hamza ahead of the election, had initiated the assembly proceedings from a guest lobby in the hall over a megaphone and read out the agenda and rules for the election of the chief minister. Police and anti-riot forces had taken positions inside the House, while women MPAs sat over the speaker’s dais and chanted slogans.

Mr Elahi had claimed that all the powers delegated to the deputy speaker were void as soon as the Punjab Assembly session ended on April 16.

PA Secretary Muhammad Khan Bhatti said the deputy speaker called the deputy commissioner and the operations deputy inspector general of police, who summoned a heavy contingent of law enforcers despite the fact that only the sergeants-at-arms had the powers to step on the floor of the House.

“Mazari conducted the election process from the Officers’ Box with a megaphone, which was contrary to the assembly rules and procedures,” he maintained.

Published in Dawn, April 28th, 2022

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