Punjab governor says will send reference against LHC judge for decision on Hamza's oath by NA speaker

Published May 5, 2022
Punjab Governor Omar Sarfraz Cheema addresses a press conference in Lahore on Thursday. — DawnNewsTV
Punjab Governor Omar Sarfraz Cheema addresses a press conference in Lahore on Thursday. — DawnNewsTV

Punjab Governor Omar Sarfraz Cheema said on Thursday that he had decided to send a reference against Lahore High Court's (LHC) Justice Jawad Hassan to the Supreme Judicial Council (SJC) for what he called an "illegal decision" of directing the National Assembly speaker to administer oath to Chief Minister-elect Hamza Shehbaz.

The SJC is a specialised forum created under Article 209 of the Constitution specifically for determining complaints of misconduct received against judges.

Addressing a press conference in Lahore, Cheema said he had decided to take legal action against the judge after consultations with professionals over the last two days.

Last month, Justice Hassan had issued a nine-page verdict after Hamza approached the high court for the third time, ending a days-long deadlock over the chief minister's office in Punjab.

Subsequently, Hamza, who was elected as Punjab chief minister on April 16, was administered the oath by NA Speaker Raja Pervaiz Ashraf on April 30.

In his press conference today, Cheema termed the LHC judge's verdict "illegal", saying that according to the honeycomb principle, no institution could "interfere" in the working of another institution.

There was no provision in the Constitution that stated that anyone besides the president or the governor could issue a notification regarding the new chief minister, he added.

The governor also shared that he had requested meetings with the president and the army chief to discuss the situation in the province.

He also advised Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif to make his son, Hamza, aware of how to contest the election for the chief minister in a constitutional way, stressing that he would administer the oath himself if Hamza did that.

Governor asks COAS for soldiers

Earlier in the day, Cheema claimed that if Chief of Army Staff Gen Qamar Javed Bajwa provided him with one subedar and four jawans, he would arrest recently sworn-in Chief Minister Hamza, who he termed "illegal, unconstitutional and counterfeit", and throw him in jail.

In a series of early morning tweets, he said that the province, which was facing a constitutional and legal crisis, had been "taken hostage by force" and termed the political parties' silence "very concerning".

If everyone had accepted the Hamza Shehbaz "formula" for becoming the chief minister in Punjab, the other provinces should start worrying for themselves, he added.

In a follow-up tweet, he said that if those who had "torn up the Constitution and the law by force" were protected, then anyone could take over a constitutional office in the same way in the future.

Cheema said he had always demanded a "neutral umpire" in his 26-year-long political career. He elaborated that a "neutral umpire" maintained the same rules for both sides, otherwise, he could not be called "neutral" and the game would not be fair.

"I have clarified in my statement what kind of intervention I expect and what is needed. I would have appealed to the public if I wasn't the governor.

"Political parties have always demanded the [army's] 111 Brigade in the past. I have asked to at least provide me with four jawans and one subedar," he tweeted.

The crisis in Punjab had begun when Governor Cheema on April 17, a day after the election of the chief minister in a stormy session of the Punjab Assembly that descended into downright violence, refused to administer oath to Chief Minister-elect Hamza, stating the assembly secretary's report, LHC's instructions and facts presented to him raised objections on the validity of the election.

In the election, scores of PTI MPAs were injured, as well as assembly Speaker Chaudhry Pervaiz Elahi — one of the two candidates for the chief ministership.

Hamza had bagged 197 votes, including 26 from PTI dissidents, while Elahi did not get any as the PTI and PML-Q lawmakers felt they were not allowed to vote.

Three petitions and a deadlock

Subsequently, Hamza had approached the Lahore High Court on April 21, which instructed President Dr Arif Alvi to appoint a representative to administer the oath in the absence of the governor.

However, after a delay by the president in following the court's directive, Hamza had approached the court again on April 25. This time, he had asked the LHC to instruct Senate Chairman Sadiq Sanjrani to administer oath to him. In his ruling, LHC Chief Justice Ameer Bhatti had directed Governor Cheema to complete Hamza's oath-taking process by April 28.

When the president and governor still failed to follow the court's instructions, Hamza sought the LHC's intervention for a third time on April 29.

On the court's directions, National Assembly Speaker Raja Pervaiz Ashraf finally administered the oath to Hamza the next day.

However, hours before Hamza's oath-taking ceremony, Cheema had rejected previous chief minister Usman Buzdar's resignation and restored his cabinet, which even convened for a meeting.

Governor asks CJP to take notice

While the oath-taking ceremony was underway, Governor Cheema had urged the chief justice to take notice of the "ghunda gardi" (thuggery) at the Governor House. He had also said the "drama of a fake chief minister's oath" was being performed in an "unconstitutional" manner.

The governor had also termed the notification for Hamza's assumption of the CM office "fake".

"As the governor, I am not allowing the notification for the appointment of any unconstitutional and fake chief minister. The way they forcibly and deceitfully put up a drama of the oath-taking, they have now attempted to prepare a fake notification for it," he tweeted at the time.

In a press conference a day later, Cheema had called Buzdar's resignation as a real "fitna" (mischief) behind the constitutional crisis in Punjab.

He had described the consequent oath-taking ceremony "after taking Governor House hostage" as unlawful and unconstitutional. He said the prime minister's son Hamza used the Punjab police and bureaucracy as his "ghunda force" and eventually had CM Buzdar denotified and Hamza notified as chief minister without sending his advice to do so.

Meanwhile, the formation of the new provincial cabinet has been delayed till Cheema's removal, according to a Dawn report published earlier this month.

The PML-N had already announced handing over the Punjab governor's office to its ally PPP that nominated Makhdoom Ahmad Mah­mood, its south Punjab president, for the slot.

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