LAHORE: Punjab Governor Balighur Rehman told the Lahore High Court on Thursday that he was not supposed to announce a date for the general election in the province as he had not dissolved the provincial assembly on the chief minister’s advice.

In a written reply filed before the court, Mr Rehman said he never dissolved the provincial assembly in terms of Article 112 of the Consti­tution; therefore, the provisions of Articles 105(3) and 224, which deal with the announcement of a date for election by the governor, would not apply in the case at hand.

On Thursday, Justice Jawad Hassan heard petitions by PTI Secretary General Asad Umar and others. Leaders of the PTI and the PML-N were present in the court.

Advocate Shahzad Shaukat submitted the governor’s reply in a petition filed by Munir Ahmad, a lawyer.

Punjab governor says he didn’t act on CM’s advice, PA dissolved as per self-executing provision

“It is emphatically denied that the answering respondent No.1 (governor) was in any manner obligated to appoint the date of elections when he had never dissolved the Assembly while acting on the so-called advice of the chief minister,” the governor said in the reply.

He said the appointment of a caretaker set-up was not dependent upon the announcement of the date for the election as the first step.

It was the primary duty of the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) to conduct a free and fair election, he said, adding that he did not cause any obstruction in the performance of the commission in any manner.

He said it was a matter of common knowledge that the then chief minister, Parvez Elahi, was acting on the command of the leader of another political party to somehow get the assembly dissolved.

In his political statements, the governor said, Mr Elahi was found to be publicly expressing that he tried his best not to disrupt the working of the assembly but was compelled to do so at the instance of the leadership of another political party.

“It is clear from the statements of the former chief minister of Punjab that he was not a free agent and the advice statedly tendered by him on [Jan 12, 2023] was a result of political pressure exerted upon him by his coalition partners,” the governor said.

Mr Rehman said he refused to become part of the completely “undemocratic” process and the assembly stood dissolved on the force of self-executing provisions of Article 112 of the Constitution.

Objecting to the maintainability of the petition, the governor asked the court to dismiss the petition with cost.

PTI’s counsel Senator Barrister Syed Ali Zafar urged the court to ask the ECP counsel about the date of the election.

Justice Hassan observed that no impractical order would be passed with respect to the date for the general election in the province.

The judge further observed that the Constitution required elections in 90 days after the dissolution of an assembly.

However, the judge said he would not pass any order to the governor in this regard but would ask the ECP about the date of the election.

The ECP lawyer said that the announcement of the election’s date was the governor’s domain. He said the ECP had suggested the governor dates of April 9 or 10 for the election in the province.

However, he said, there were several hurdles in the way of the elections. He pointed out that the federal government had not issued funds to the commission to conduct the elections. Besides the police, the high court also refused to provide its civil judges to the ECP for the election purpose, he said.

The ECP counsel sought more time to submit a written reply on the matter.

Deputy Attorney General Nasir Ghumman said what would be the situation if the ECP failed to conduct the election despite the announcement of the date and the release of funds worth billions of rupees.

The law officer recommended the formation of a larger bench to decide the matter, saying the judge had already disclosed his mind.

PTI leader Fawad Chaudhry said there would be a constitutional crisis if the elections were not announced in three days. He asked the court to decide the issue by Friday (today).

“They do not want to hold elections,” Mr Chaudhry said, pointing towards PML-N provincial lawmaker Rana Mashhood Ahmad Khan, who was also present in the court. Mr Khan said his party wanted to hold the election but not as per the choice of the PTI.

The judge adjourned the hearing till Friday (today) and directed the ECP to submit a detailed reply.

Published in Dawn, February 10th, 2023

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