Interior Minister Rana Sanaullah on Wednesday warned of imposing governor's rule in Punjab if he was restricted from entering the province.
Addressing a press conference in Islamabad, he said he had already begun drafting a summary for the imposition of governor's rule, which is moved by the interior ministry, because of the kind of statements opposition political leaders had been making.
"If my entry is restricted, it will be grounds for governor's rule," he asserted.
The interior minister's presser comes hours after PML-Q's Chaudhry Parvez Elahi was sworn in as the Punjab chief minister following the Supreme Court verdict which declared Hamza Shehbaz's victory in the July 22 run-off election as void.
President Dr Arif Alvi administered the oath to Elahi at Aiwan-i-Sadr in Islamabad. Elahi had to rush from Lahore to the federal capital after Punjab Governor Balighur Rehman refused to carry out the job.
Elahi's swearing-in capped a months-long saga over the provincial chief executive that began with Usman Buzdar's resignation.
During today's press conference, the minister said the SC's decision had "created complications and destabilised the political situation" because of which the rupee was tanking and the stock market was falling.
Even a second-grader would interpret Article 63-A — which is related to the disqualification of lawmakers over defection — as saying that the votes of dissident lawmakers would be counted in the election, he claimed.
He further stated that the SC's recent verdict contradicted the Election Commission of Pakistan's (ECP) decision to de-seat 25 dissident PTI lawmakers who had voted for Hamza in the April 16 election, which was, in turn, based on an order of the apex court.
The ECP's verdict had been based on MPAs not following the instructions of the party head whereas the SC had stated the parliamentary party head's instructions should be followed, he stated.
He went on to say that Hamza should have remained the chief minister since the votes of those 25 dissident lawmakers would not be subtracted from his tally in the April election.
"It is my opinion that the interpretation of Article 63-A will not sustain. Any lawyer will say it amounts to rewriting the Constitution. It is not the SC's authority to rewrite the Constitution and we will defend the parliament's authority," Sanaullah said.
"This situation is unfortunate and we want to restrict our words [...] An independent, uncontroversial and impartial judiciary is any country's basic need. No country can progress without it."
'Regulating judicial authority'
The interior minister said that the incumbent government did not seek to curb the judiciary's authority but wanted to "regulate" it.
If the chief justice took suo motu notice and formed benches in consensus with the advice of fellow jurists, then letters like the one circulating since yesterday would not happen, he said, while referring to the one written by Justice Qazi Faez Isa to the Judicial Commission of Pakistan.
In response to a question about whether the PML-N-led coalition government in the Centre would find it difficult to rule now that they no longer had control of Punjab, Sanaullah said: "The federal government has its own role. It is present everywhere. It has so many departments and their resources and budgets are bigger than provincial departments. This kind of conversation is being done by people who neither have intelligence nor knowledge.
"The federal government is a coalition government and it is present everywhere," he emphasised.
In response to a question of what the government would do if PTI Chairman Imran Khan decided to hold another long march to Islamabad, Sanaullah said they should remember the incidents of May 25 — the last time the former ruling party had done a long march to the capital, which was marked by violence.
"If he (Imran) tries to mount [a protest] from Punjab or Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, we will stop them there and if the police do not stop them, we will do it ourselves. They should not think they will find empty roads and will be facilitated while coming towards Islamabad."
In response to another question about PML-N supremo Nawaz Sharif's return, the interior minister said not only would Nawaz come back to Pakistan but he would also lead the party's campaign in the next general elections.
Separately, PML-N Vice President Maryam Nawaz also criticised the court's decision and termed it "judicial murder".
"How will you justify this blatant injustice? This is judicial murder but the victim this time is justice. What have you done, chief justice?" she said in a tweet.
'PTI can pull plug on federal govt'
Meanwhile, talking to media persons later in the day, former federal minister Fawad Chaudhry claimed that dismantling the federal government was no longer a big deal for the PTI.
"The federal [government] is on a ventilator and we can pull the plug whenever we want to," he said.
The PTI leader bashed federal ministers Rana Sanaullah and Marriyum Aurangzeb for not respecting the apex court's order. "The SC issued a verdict yesterday and today you are talking about governor's rule in Punjab.
"I suggest you read the law on governor's rule once so that you understand the conditions under which it can be imposed," he said.
Talking about the SC's ruling on Punjab CM elections, Chaudhry said that the apex court's decision was historic. "The judges had to endure political pressure and even threats. The way they have stood firm, such instances are rare in Pakistan."
He continued that these were the same three judges who had passed a ruling three months ago which eventually led to Imran's ouster as prime minister.
"We have a lot of reservations about that decision. But this doesn't mean we will go against the courts."
Chaudhry further suggested Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif should show "strength", claiming that PML-N's leadership had gone to pieces under pressure.
"We [PTI] have a core committee meeting in which we will decide on bringing a change in Islamabad," he said, adding that the party was more interested in holding fresh elections and wanted to discuss electoral reforms with other political parties.