LAHORE: The constitutional crisis in Punjab is far from over despite the Cabinet Division denotifying the governor, as Punjab Assembly Speaker Chaudhry Parvez Elahi has refused to take charge of acting governor after the removal of Omar Sarfraz Cheema.
Even if Mr Elahi remains adamant, legal experts believe, Punjab Assembly Deputy Speaker Dost Mazari cannot assume the acting governor’s role. These developments could deprive Punjab of a governor for at least a week.
On Saturday, Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif had sent a summary to President Arif Alvi, recommending PML-N loyalist Balighur Rehman for the post of Punjab governor. If the president does not act on the premier’s advice within 10 days, Mr Rehman’s appointment will be notified.
On Tuesday, PML-Q leader Parvez Elahi visited the Punjab Assembly Secretariat and performed his routine duties as the speaker. “Mr Elahi has not taken the charge of acting governor as he is consulting constitutional experts in this regard,” a party spokesperson said.
Advocate general calls Cheema’s removal ‘contempt of president’
Meanwhile, Mr Elahi also called the sacked governor and expressed solidarity with him. “We will continue to uphold the Constitution and law and resist all of the government’s unconstitutional actions. The government has set up a factory of unconstitutional measures, but I will carry out my duties in accordance with the Constitution and law,” Mr Elahi asserted.
Mr Cheema said he would take decisions in view of the supremacy of the Constitution. In a tweet on Tuesday, he rejected the “unconstitutional” notification to denotify him as the governor. “I am consulting legal experts and will soon announce my next plan of action,” Mr Cheema said.
Meanwhile, talking to reporters here, newly appointed Attorney General for Pakistan Ashtar Ausaf Ali said: “Forcibly occupying a constitutional office is immoral. When one (governor) loses trust of the government he/she should quit respectably. Such offices carry honour and respect.”
On the other hand, Punjab Advocate General Ahmad Awais maintained the federal government had committed “contempt of the president”.
“Removal of Mr Cheema from the office of the governor despite President Arif Ali’s rejection of the premier’s summary amounts to contempt of the president. Governor House is not someone’s private property. The government has illegally taken over it,” Mr Awais claimed.
Moreover, Barrister Taimur Malik questioned: “How will the government justify issuance of a notification at 1am to remove the governor. If you disagree with the president’s decision then go to the court, but you can’t overrule the head of state’s position through a letter issued by a joint secretary.”
Meanwhile, the Hamza Shehbaz-led Punjab government ordered the Lahore police to bar Mr Cheema from entering Governor House. Security outside the premises was also beefed up to handle any possible protest by the PTI against the removal of Mr Cheema.
In reaction, former PTI state minister Farrukh Habib tweeted a picture of the security measures outside Governor House, captioning it: “The crime minister and his son Hamza, the fake chief minister, has taken unconstitutional steps and misused the state authority.”
Published in Dawn, May 11th, 2022