Punjab cabinet formation put on hold till governor’s ouster

Published May 2, 2022
This combination of photos shows PML-N leader Hamza Shahbaz (L) and Punjab Governor Omar Sarfaraz Cheema.— Photo courtesy: Twitter/ DawnNewsTV
This combination of photos shows PML-N leader Hamza Shahbaz (L) and Punjab Governor Omar Sarfaraz Cheema.— Photo courtesy: Twitter/ DawnNewsTV

LAHORE: Formation of a new provincial cabinet after Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) leader Hamza Shehbaz was sworn in as chief minister of Punjab is likely to be delayed till the removal of incumbent Governor Omar Sarfaraz Cheema, Dawn has learnt.

A senior leader of the PML-N disclosed on Sunday that discussion to finalise the names for PML-N-led Punjab cabinet was under way, but the process might be delayed for a couple of weeks till the governor’s removal.

Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif sent a summary for Mr Cheema’s removal to Pre­sident Arif Alvi on April 16.

“As long as Mr Cheema is in office, he is not going to administer oath to new Punjab cabinet for sure, compelling us to move the court. Therefore, we have decided instead of seeking court’s intervention again for the purpose, [we should] wait till his (Cheema’s) ouster by mid of this month,” the senior PML-N leader said.

Earlier, Punjab Assembly Speaker Chaudhry Parvez Elahi and Governor Cheema had made it painstakingly difficult for Mr Hamza to take oath even two weeks after he got elected in an assembly session marked by unprecedented mayhem. Governor Cheema, who replaced Chaudhry Mohammad Sarwar on April 3, refused to administer oath to Mr Hamza after which the latter took oath from National Assembly Speaker Raja Pervaiz Ashraf on Saturday on a Lahore High Court order.

PML-N believes PTI’s Cheema won’t swear in new ministers

“The PML-N does not want oath-taking matter of new Punjab cabinet to be taken to the court like that of Mr Hamza’s and can wait for 10 days or so, seeing the ruling coalition’s own governor taking the charge,” the PML-N leader argued.

According to the Constitution, the president can hold a summary sent by the premier for 14 days without a decision. On the expiry of the period, the prime minister may re-endorse his advice in this respect and the president can hold his decision for another 10 days. After this period, the governor will stand removed and the prime minister is authorised to appoint a new governor.

In the second week of May, Mr Cheema would no more be a governor, the ruling party leader explained, adding that then the new Punjab cabinet would be sworn in.

The PML-N had already announced handing over the Punjab governor office to its ally PPP that nominated Makhdoom Ahmad Mah­mood, its south Punjab president, for the slot. Mr Mah­mood had remained Punjab governor during the PPP’s previous tenure as well.

About deliberations on ‘suitable candidates’ in Hamza’s cabinet, a party insider said: “PM Shehbaz will have a major say in the selection of the cabinet members from his party. A couple of ‘favourites’ of PML-N vice president Maryam Nawaz may also be included.”

Disgruntled leader of the Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf Jehangir Khan Tareen will recommend the names from his group, while other PTI dissidents like Aleem Khan and Asad Khokhar seem interested to be part of the new Punjab cabinet.

However, a sword of de-seating was still hanging on the 26 PTI dissidents who voted for the PML-N leader in the election of the chief minister. In such case, those taken from PTI dissidents in the cabinet may have a brief stint as the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) has announced deciding the reference, filed by the PTI through Punjab Assembly speaker Elahi, this month.

According to sources, the PPP has also sought either speaker or deputy speaker slot from the PML-N besides a couple of ministries.

Also, CM Hamza, who had served a 20-month jail term in the money laundering and Ramzan Sugar Mills cases of the National Accountability Bureau (NAB), is on a pre-arrest bail till May 14 in another money laundering case of Rs14bn instituted by the Federal Investigation Agency.

Since Hamza’s name was taken by his political opponents in the transfer and posting of the police officials in Punjab during the tenures of his father as chief minister, there is a word in the PML-N circles that PM Shehbaz would be calling the shots in the provincial affairs and Hamza’s role would merely be ‘ceremonial’.

In a tweet, former federal minister Moonis Elahi of the Pakistan Muslim League-Quaid said that Mr Hamza had become CM by “stealing the mandate” of the PTI. He wrote: “Congratulations to the people of Punjab for having a fake CM.” He said Mr Hamza had stolen PTI chairman Imran Khan’s mandate to become a ‘controversial’ chief minister and expressed the hope that the ECP would not prolong the case of PTI turncoats and de-seat them as they had defected to the PML-N.

Published in Dawn, May 2nd, 2022

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