Monday September 25, 2023

'Unconstitutional, illegal': Punjab governor rejects speaker's ruling

When discharging constitutional responsibility, speaker shouldn't consider personal preference, says Baligh-ur-Rehman

December 22, 2022
Speaker Punjab Assembly Sibtain Khan (L) and Punjab Governor Muhammad Baligh-ur-Rehman. — PPI/APP/File
Speaker Punjab Assembly Sibtain Khan (L) and Punjab Governor Muhammad Baligh-ur-Rehman. — PPI/APP/File

LAHORE: Punjab Governor Muhammad Baligh-ur-Rehman Wednesday declared Speaker Punjab Assembly Sibtain Khan's ruling regarding the session "illegal and unconstitutional."

The governor issued the directives under Article 130's section 7, stating that it is the speaker's responsibility to defend the Constitution and uphold the law.

"When discharging constitutional responsibility, the speaker shouldn't consider personal preference. He is bound to honestly and impartially fulfil his duties," the governor wrote in his reference to the speaker.

Rehman — belonging to the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) — had summoned a session today at 4pm for a vote of confidence pertaining to Punjab Chief Minister Parvez Elahi.

But defying the directives, the speaker — a PTI member — had termed the order against the constitution and adjourned an ongoing session till Friday.

In his three-page reference, the governor added that the speaker has sworn to an oath under the Constitution and cannot deviate from it.

"The speaker raised illegal points in the ruling. The Punjab Assembly speaker gave an incorrect example of the high court case and Manzoor Wattoo case," the reference stated.

The governor added that in the Lahore High Court's Manzoor Ahmad Wattoo vs Federation of Pakistan case, the circumstances were different compared to the current situation.

"Your good self's reliance on the abovementioned judgment of the Lahore High Court is also misplaced inasmuch as the facts and circumstances involved in this judgment are clearly distinguishable [...] there is nothing that prevents me from requiring the chief minister to obtain the vote of confidence from the Assembly."

In the letter, the governor also disregarded other rules that the speaker had cited in his ruling and added that it has "no bearing" on the order to hold a session for the confidence vote.

Interior Minister Rana Sanaullah earlier threatened that the Punjab governor would issue a declaration at 4pm to remove the chief minister from office, but it did not materialise.

But later today, while speaking on Geo News' programme "Aaj Shahzeb Khanzada Kay Saath", said that under the Constitution's Article 130(7), the governor — when he deems that the CM does have the house's confidence — can ask him to take a vote of confidence and summon a special session.

"And if the chief minister refrains from taking the vote of confidence — a situation that took place today — then the Constitution's position is clear: he will cease to be the chief minister."

Sanaullah said, in his opinion, that since CM Elahi did not take a vote of confidence in a session that was summoned today but did not take place because of the speaker, he "is no longer" the chief minister.

The interior minister also added that it was the discretion of the governor as he can issue an order to remove the chief minister at "4:10pm, later today, and even tomorrow morning".

Meanwhile, Sibtain has sent a letter to President Alvi for removing the incumbent governor, Punjab Minister for Environment Protection and Parliamentary Affairs Muhammad Basharat Raja said.

The former law minister said that under Article 101(3), the president has the authority to remove the governor.

Basharat said in the letter written for the removal, the speaker has also complained about the governor's behaviour.

"He has also pointed out the unconstitutional measures of the governor and requested the president to ensure that the governor does not take further unconstitutional steps."