PTI in denial as Hamza finally takes oath

Published May 1, 2022
HAMZA Shehbaz takes oath from NA Speaker Raja Pervaiz Ashraf on the grounds of Governor House in Lahore.—AFP
HAMZA Shehbaz takes oath from NA Speaker Raja Pervaiz Ashraf on the grounds of Governor House in Lahore.—AFP

• Governor tries to ‘restore’ Buzdar and cabinet, terms ex-CM’s resignation constitutionally invalid
• CM meets Tareen, discusses cabinet formation

LAHORE: After weeks of uncertainty and court cases, PML-N’s Hamza Shehbaz on Saturday finally managed to take oath as the 21st chief minister of Punjab following court orders in this regard, while the Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI) remains in denial mode, calling the CM’s election “unconstitutional and disputed” and insisting Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif’s son cannot be accepted as the chief executive of the province.

Soon after Hamza was sworn in and assumed his office at 8-Club Road (CM secretariat), the Punjab chief secretary notified that interim chief minister Usman Buzdar ceased to hold office with immediate effect. Hamza was presented with a guard of honour on his maiden visit to the secretariat.

As he left his Model Town residence for the Governor House to take oath from National Assembly Speaker Raja Pervaiz Ashraf, Punjab Governor Omar Sarfraz Cheema restored Mr Buzdar as a full-fledged CM along with his entire cabinet. However, the Services and General Administration Department (S&GAD) did not notify the move.

Buzdar, on the other hand, called a meeting of his ‘restored’ cabinet at the Punjab Assembly and declared Hamza’s election illegal.

Security was beefed up in and outside Governor House for the swearing-in of the chief minister since the civil administration had completely realigned itself with the new coalition government, while Governor Cheema continued tweeting against the ‘forced takeover’ of the premises and holding of the ceremony.

The governor also reques­ted the chief justice of Pakistan to take note of the “hooliganism” in Governor House. He even called Rangers personnel but they did not come to his rescue.

This episode lasted for over two hours before Hamza managed to take oath under the security cover of Lahore police force. The PML-N vice president is also on bail in a money laundering case till May 14.

The governor tweeted that he had not granted permission for holding the oath-taking ceremony at the Governor House. “The chief secretary and the Punjab inspector general of police were warned and asked to vacate the Governor House or they would be responsible for any untoward incident,” Mr Cheema stated.

“A fake chief minister’s oath-taking drama was staged in an unconstitutional manner,” he stated and remarked in another tweet after the oath-taking that he did not allow issuance of a notification for the appointment of an “unconstitutional and fake” chief minister. He even called fake the Punjab government notification regarding the appointment of Hamza as CM and Usman Buzdar ceasing to hold office.

Soon after the Lahore High Court’s (LHC) decision late on Friday asking the National Assembly speaker to administer oath to Hamza, the civil administration, led by the chief secretary, had taken over and set up a marquee in the lawns of the Governor House for the oath ceremony without the governor’s permission. On Saturday, the venue was jam-packed, while PTI dissidents and Punjab Assembly Deputy Speaker Dost Muhammad Mazari were given front-row seats alongside PML-N vice president Maryam Nawaz. Her husband, retired Capt Safdar, was accommodated on a chair placed on the right side of her sofa.

Hamza Shehbaz was elected chief minister with 197 votes in a violent Punjab Assembly session on April 16 that left many injured, including Speaker Chaudhry Parvez Elahi who was the PML-N leader’s opponent in the race. A legal battle ensued, culminating in a single bench of the LHC directing the National Assembly speaker to administer the oath to the CM-elect.

‘Law takes course’

Speaking to the media after reaching the CM secretariat, the newly inducted chief executive of Punjab said Pakistan’s largest province was undergoing a constitutional crisis for a month, but eventually concluded when the law and Constitution took their course. He chastised Speaker Elahi for desecrating the law and Constitution in the assembly, adding that the governor disrespected court orders.

Late on Friday night, Governor Cheema had written a three-page letter to the Punjab Assembly speaker, asserting that Usman Buzdar’s resignation was not constitutionally valid for being typed instead of written by hand, and addressed and submitted to the prime minister. “All consequent steps taken thereupon, including the notification by my predecessor notifying his resignation as such, is invalid in law. The same are not endorsed by my office nor do I accept them as valid,” he maintained. He requested the speaker to take up this matter and act according to the provisions of the Constitution.

Buzdar’s cabinet ‘restored’

Eventually, the PTI took the governor’s letter as a notification restoring the former chief minister and his cabinet, and held a ‘cabinet meeting’ at the Punjab Assembly under the chairmanship of Mr Buzdar.

According to a statement issued later, the Punjab cabinet expressed concern over the situation at Governor House. It discussed the swearing-in of Hamza Shehbaz in the presence of constitutional orders of the Punjab governor and opined that this situation would further create a constitutional crisis in the province.

The meeting decided that the PTI and its allied party, PML-Q, would wait for a decision by a larger bench of the LHC on an intra-court appeal of PTI MPAs challenging the order for Speaker Ashraf to administer oath to Hamza.

It also maintained that the civil administration and police should not be a party to this matter, and Governor House should not be invaded into and occupied by the police.

Since the S&GAD did not notify the restoration of Buzdar and his cabinet, the PTI leadership believed the meeting was held under the orders of the governor, hence constitutional and legal. The cabinet declared Hamza’s election controversial, unconstitutional and illegal. There is a proper forum and the court is being approached for it, it added.

However, when Mr Buzdar left the meeting he found that his security had already been withdrawn and he was left on his own. Covering up the embarrassment, Mr Buzdar said he had himself allowed the security to be withdrawn after he was conveyed his successor had taken over.

Elahi refuses to give up

Meanwhile, speaking to the media at Punjab Assembly, Speaker Parvez Elahi held the PML-N responsible for the constitutional crisis in the province. “If the PML-N had waited for 28 days, this crisis would not have arisen,” he said.

“It is a matter of a few days, there will be some other news,” he said, adding he had always respected the judiciary and never treated it like the Sharif brothers did. He, however, regretted that PTI lawyers continued standing outside the court all night but it did not open its doors.

Mr Elahi said Hamza was legally not the chief minister because the entire election process was illegal. On the day of the election, he said, the assembly proceedings were impeded and the PTI and PML-Q MPAs were not allowed to vote.

The speaker heaped scorn on the chief secretary and Punjab IGP, saying he would keep an eye on both officers to check what advantages they received from the PML-N.

CM meets Tareen

Later in the evening, Hamza along with party leaders Atta Tarar and Awais Leghari visited Jahangir Khan Tareen at his residence in Model Town and thanked him for his support in the chief minister’s election.

Besides inquiring after Mr Tareen, the chief minister discussed formation of his cabinet. Sources report that Hamza believes in the first phase, allied parties and PTI dissident lawmakers as well as senior PML-N leaders would be inducted as provincial ministers.

Meanwhile, Governor Cheema called a meeting of constitutional experts to discuss the ongoing crisis in the province and the ways to get through.

Also, late on Friday, the PTI held a procession from the party’s Lahore office on Jail Road to Charing Cross on The Mall, shouting slogans against the constitutional crisis in the province, including “Imported hukoomat namanzoor”, “Imported CM namanzoor”, “Imported PM namanzoor”, “Ghunda-gardi ki sarkar nahi chalay gi”.

Published in Dawn, May 1st, 2022



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