LAHORE / ISLAMABAD: The Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI) on Thursday approached the Lahore High Court against the election of Hamza Shehbaz as the chief minister of Punjab in light of the opinion rendered by the Supreme Court about votes of defecting lawmakers.

Meanwhile, seeking his reinstatement, sacked Punjab governor Omar Sarfraz Cheema has filed a petition before the Islamabad High Court (IHC) that will be heard on Friday (today).

In Lahore, Sibtain Khan and four other MPAs of the PTI filed a joint petition, saying the Punjab chief minister’s election held on April 16 under the supervision of the provincial assembly deputy speaker whereby Hamza was declared a returned candidate was held without lawful authority. The

petition filed through Advocate Safdar Shaheen Pirzada and Barrister Ali Zafar said the impugned election in entirety was a sham and a mockery.

It stated that the scope of Article 63A of the Constitution and its applicability on a particular member’s right to cast a vote had been interpreted by the apex court on a presidential reference that the votes of defectors could not be counted.

The petition argued that the election conducted by the Punjab Assembly deputy speaker was in line with the orders passed by the high court and relied on aid from the Punjab police and administration. It alleged that the session of the Punjab Assembly was held after severe thrashing of the members of PTI and PML-Q wherein Chaudhry Pervez Elahi, the candidate for the chief minister’s office, was also roughed up and injured.

The petition said Hamza was declared a returned candidate by obtaining highest votes, including 25 from defectors. It asked the court to declare the PML-N leader’s election unlawful in view of the opinion given by the Supreme Court about Article 63A of the Constitution.

Meanwhile, a senior lawyer, Mushtaq Ahmad Mohal, also filed a similar petition on the same grounds requesting the court to seek explanation from Hamza that under what authority he was holding the office of the chief minister.

LHC Chief Justice Muhammad Ameer Bhatti is set to take up these petitions on Friday (today).

Larger bench

Moreover, a Lahore High Court larger bench adjourned hearing on intra-court appeals of the PTI against the decisions of two separate single benches regarding the oath-taking of Punjab chief minister Hamza Shehbaz.

PTI’s lead counsel Imtiaz Siddiqui continued his arguments against the impugned decision of the single benches. He argued that the attorney general and the Punjab advocate general were not given ample opportunity by the single benches before issuing the impugned decisions.

He said the court did not give time to the provincial governor to apply his mind in the matter, and Hamza kept filing petitions back to back. The governor was bound to administer the oath to the first chief minister of an assembly, but had the power to refuse it to a second chief minister citing reasons. He further said the governor was not bound to implement the certificate of election issued by the deputy speaker.

The bench headed by Justice Sadaqat Ali Khan would resume further hearing on May 26.

Cheema seeks reinstatement

Meanwhile, former Punjab governor Omar Sarfraz Cheema has sought his reinstatement and filed a petition before the Islamabad High Court (IHC) on Thursday. IHC Chief Justice Athar Minallah will hear the petition on Friday (today).

In the petition, Cheema pleaded that he was appointed as the governor of Punjab by the president in terms of Article 101 of the Constitution, adding that once a governor was appointed, his continuation in the office or removal was solely left on the pleasure of the president, including allowing the salary, allowances and privileges as the president may determine.

The petition cited the Cabinet Division secretary, secretary to the president and the Punjab Assembly speaker as respondents. It claimed the Cabinet Division de-notified him over personal whims of his political rival. The petitioner could not be removed without displeasure of the president and approval of the course provided in Clause 3 of Article 101, which states: “The governor shall hold office during the pleasure of the president [and shall be entitled to such salary, allowances and privileges as the President may determine]…”

According to the petition, “There is neither allegation of misconduct against the petitioner nor any conviction by any court of law or any act omitted contrary to the Constitution. Therefore, as head of the state it is the duty of the president to represent the unity of Islamic republic in terms of Article 41 of the Constitution.”

It also questioned the manner in which he was removed by the executive, and requested the court to declare the notification of his removal illegal and unconstitutional. The petitioner also requested the court to issue a decree against the Cabinet Division secretary for being disloyal to the Constitution.

The federal government on May 10 de-notified Cheema as the Punjab governor stating that he ceased to hold office on the advice of the prime minister sent to the president on April 17 and reinforced on May 1.

President Dr Alvi had earlier rejected the prime minister’s summary using Article 101(3), which says the governor shall hold the office “during the pleasure” of the president.

The PTI legal team believed the Constitution was clear in terms of Article 101(3) read with Article 48(2) that “the president shall act in his discretion in respect of any matter in respect of which he is empowered by the Constitution to do so”.

Published in Dawn, May 20th, 2022

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