PTI leaders on Thursday all but confirmed on Thursday that the provincial assemblies of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and Punjab were unlikely to be dissolved on December 23 (Friday) — the date previously given by party chairman Imran Khan — and that the matter would extend into January because of a constitutional crisis in Punjab.
Former prime minister Imran Khan had last week announced that his governments in the two provinces will dissolve assemblies to pave way for fresh elections.
However, Punjab Assembly (PA) Speaker and PTI leader Sibtain Khan hinted today that the dissolution may be extended till the first week of January because of the vote of confidence and no-trust motion against Chief Minister Pervez Elahi.
On December 19, Punjab Governor Balighur Rehman had asked Elahi to take a vote of confidence by 4pm yesterday, while PML-N and PPP lawmakers had submitted a no-trust motion against the chief minister.
In response, Sibtain had disposed of the governor’s order, saying that the instructions were “against the Constitution and Rules of Procedure”.
In a tit-for-tat move on December 21, Governor Rehman termed the speaker’s ruling “unconstitutional” and the coalition government hinted at the imposition of the governor’s rule in Punjab.
In a media talk today, Sibtain said: “We [the PTI] had to dissolve the assemblies tomorrow but this might be delayed till the first week of January as the no-confidence motion was presented yesterday.”
“Notices in this regard have to be issued first […] and the process will take a few more days,” he pointed out.
“And now that the no-confidence vote has been submitted […] how can the assemblies be dissolved?”
Sibtain said that the Punjab governor could only call for a session to take a confidence vote but “cannot de-notify” Elahi.
Separately, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Chief Minister Mahmood Khan said that the PTI has decided to postpone the dissolution of the provincial assembly until the fate of the Punjab Assembly is decided.
In a media talk outside the Hayatabad Sports Complex in Peshawar today, Mahmood said: “Imran Khan will first decide the future of the Punjab Assembly.”
“Right now, consultation on the matter of the Punjab Assembly is under way. The decision regarding the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Assembly will be taken after these discussions.”
The chief minister added that he was in contact with his party’s senior leadership. “Up until now, Imran has not given me any directions on the dissolution. I will contact Imran today but first a decision regarding the Punjab Assembly will be taken.”
Crisis in Punjab
After Imran’s announcement of the assemblies’ dissolution, the coalition leaders had sprung into action to prevent Punjab Chief Minister Pervez Elahi from dissolving the Punjab Assembly.
In a double-edged move on Monday, the Punjab governor asked the chief minister to obtain a vote of confidence from the Punjab Assembly, while PML-N and PPP lawmakers submitted a separate no-trust resolution against him in a bid to bar him from dissolving the assembly.
However, Punjab Assembly Speaker Sibtain Khan termed the governor’s orders as “illegal, against the provisions of the Constitution and thus stand disposed of”.
In his two-page ruling, the speaker maintained that the governor’s orders were not in accordance with Article 54(3) and Article 127. “The house is in session since Oct 23, 2022, and under Articles 54(3) and 127. No fresh session can be convened unless and until the current one ends,” the order read.
Subsequently, on Wednesday, the Punjab governor termed the speaker’s ruling “unconstitutional”.
In his order, the governor said under Article 130(7) of the Constitution that PA speaker’s ruling had no bearing on his order and termed it unconstitutional. The governor said the speaker’s ruling was also in violation of Rule 209 of the Rules of Procedure of the Provincial Assembly of the Punjab, 1997.
Lawyers reached by Dawn for their comments differ on the governor’s orders issued to the chief minister, they were unanimous that a legal battle appears to be the only way forward for the resolution of the current crisis in Punjab.
Meanwhile, Interior Minister Rana Sanaullah has said that the coalition government in the centre was mulling over the imposition of “governor rule” in Punjab since Chief Minister Elahi had not taken a vote of confidence, as asked by the governor.
“And now any time… probably on Thursday (today), the governor can issue an order de-notifying the CM,” he said.
The minister was also of the view that “all was not well” in PTI’s Punjab parliamentary party. “Had the PTI been confident that CM Elahi could secure the support of 186 MPAs in the PA he would have gone for the trust vote on Wednesday in compliance with the governor’s order,” he said, adding that the CM could have gone for PA’s dissolution after the vote in line with Imran Khan’s plan for the dissolution of assemblies. “But the PTI chose otherwise because it knew it did not have the required number,” Sanaullah added.
On the other hand, PTI senior leader Fawad Chaudhry has said that the coalition parties were ‘scared of’ holding general elections, adding they would be violating the Constitution’s Article 109 by asking the chief minister to take a vote of confidence immediately.
He said the PTI had called its parliamentary party meeting on Thursday (today) and stressed it’s 177 as well as the PML-Q’s 10 MPAs were available to foil a no-confidence motion submitted by the PML-N and the PPP separately against the chief minister as well as the Punjab Assembly speaker and deputy speaker.
Chaudhry also claimed that the party’s women MPAs had told Imran that they were receiving offers from former president Asif Zardari to abstain from voting for Rs50 million each.
“As soon as the vote of no-confidence fails, the Punjab Assembly will be dissolved and the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Assembly will follow suit,” he added.