• Sana holds SC verdict responsible for ‘destabilising political situation’
• Says Nawaz will return to lead campaign once polls announced
• PTI says public anger on governor’s rule will be ‘unbearable’

ISLAMABAD: Interior Minister Rana Sanaullah on Wednesday warned that the federal government could impose governor’s rule in Punjab if the provincial government led by Chief Minister Parvez Elahi — an ally of the Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI) — tried to block his entry to the province.

The statement by the interior minister prompted a strong response from the PTI, which met under the chairmanship of its chairman Imran Khan to restore welfare projects the party had initiated during Usman Buzdar’s tenure.

Mr Sanaullah was alluding to the remarks made by PTI leader Fawad Chaudhry last week wherein the former information minister had said that entry of PML-N leaders, including Attaullah Tarar, would be banned in Punjab if PTI came to power.

In his remarks on Wednesday, Mr Sanaullah said if the Punjab government tried to ban the entry of PML-N leaders, such an action would provide a “strong ground” for the imposition of governor’s rule.

He said he had already begun drafting a summary for the imposition of governor’s rule, which was moved by the interior ministry, because of the kind of statements opposition leaders had been making.

The minister said the president would be bound to accept the advice of the prime minister on the governor’s rule. “Otherwise, it would be deemed to have been accepted after 10 days,” he remarked.

He also shed light on the deteriorating economic situation in the country due to political instability and said that the ongoing turmoil was a matter of concern as the dollar continued to “take giant leaps against the Pakistani currency”.

‘SC verdict aggravated crises’

Mr Sanaullah said the Supreme Court’s verdict would further deepen political and economic crises as it “created complications and destabilised the political situation”.

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 had the votes of 25 dissident lawmakers not been 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 parliament’s authority,” Mr 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.”

‘Regulate judiciary’

The interior minister said that the incumbent government did not seek to curb the judiciary’s authority but wanted to “regulate” it. “No one is talking of limiting its authority”, he said.

He also said had the chief justice formed benches in consultation with fellow judges, letters like the one circulating since Tuesday would have never surfaced. He was 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 its resources and budgets are bigger than provincial departments.”

In response to a question on 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 gone on a long march to the capital, which was marked by violence.

He said a protest march, if it started from Punjab or Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, will be stopped there and then. “If the police do not stop them, we will do it ourselves. They should not think they will find empty roads… towards Islamabad.”

Mr Sanaullah claimed that PML-N supreme leader Nawaz Sharif will return to Pakistan to lead the election campaign once the general elections were called.

PTI Core Committee

In response to the threat made by Mr Sanaullah, the PTI warned that those who were talking about the imposition of the governor’s rule in Punjab should bear in mind that they must be ready to face the public’s wrath.

The core committee of the PTI had met with Imran Khan in the chair. He decided to restore public welfare projects in Punjab and also nominated Sabtain Khan for the speaker of the Punjab Assembly slot left vacant after Mr Elahi became the CM.

Speaking to the media in Banigala after the meeting, PTI leader Farrukh Habib warned that in case of governor’s rule, the wrath of the public will be “unbearable”.

While sharing details from the core committee meeting, he said Imran Khan had directed the immediate restoration of the health card, the Ehsas programme, shelters for the homeless, and other welfare works in Punjab province.

He added that Mr Khan would visit Lahore today to take important decisions pertaining to the newly-elected government in Punjab. He said that the PTI chief was “concerned” about the masses therefore he directed the Elahi-led government to restore public welfare projects.

Published in Dawn, July 28th, 2022

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