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Wednesday June 12, 2024

PML-N discusses Governor’s rule option: Punjab PA standoff intensifies

Decision made to de-notify Chief Minister Pervaiz Elahi; Imran Khan to announce new plan of action today

By News Desk & Nour Correspondent
December 22, 2022
Punjab Assembly Speaker Sibtain Khan (Left), Governor Punjab Balighur Rehman (Centre) and CM Parvez Elahi. The News/File
Punjab Assembly Speaker Sibtain Khan (Left), Governor Punjab Balighur Rehman (Centre) and CM Parvez Elahi. The News/File

LAHORE/ ISLAMABAD: After the Punjab chief minister did not get vote of confidence as was asked by the governor, political situation in the province has turned tense amid talks of governor’s rule in Punjab.

The Punjab governor has ruled that Chief Minister Chaudhry Pervaiz Elahi has lost the confidence of the majority of the members.

Baligh Ur Rehman, in a letter written to Punjab Assembly Speaker, also declared the Speaker’s ruling against governor’s order asking the chief minister to take vote of confidence on yesterday (Wednesday), as unconstitutional.

In his order, the governor accused the Speaker of helping and aiding the chief minister in refraining from fulfilling his duty and preventing the constitutional process to proceed to its logical end. He said this “leads to the consequences stipulated in Rule 22 (7) of the Rules of Procedure of the Provincial Assembly of the Punjab 1997.”

Rule 22 (7) of the Rules of Procedure of the Provincial Assembly of the Punjab 1997 says: “If, on the day fixed by the Governor for obtaining a vote of confidence from the Assembly under clause (7) of Article 130 of the Constitution, the Chief Minister refrains from doing so, it shall be deemed that he does not command confidence of the majority of the members.”

Barrister Nabeel Awan, principal secretary to Punjab governor, sent a letter on Wednesday night to the Punjab Assembly Speaker with which the detailed order of the Punjab governor regarding Speaker’s ruling was attached. The letter was also sent to the principal secretary to Punjab chief minister.

The governor’s order titled – ‘Order under Article 130(7) of Constitution of Islamic Republic of Pakistan dated 19th December 2022 and Ruling thereupon by worthy Speaker, Punjab Assembly’ – said: “The subject Order dated 19 December, and your good self’s ruling dated 20th December 2022 thereon refer. Your good self has given the Ruling referred to above, which I have received this morning. Through your Ruling, you have decided to not process the Order under Article 130(7) of the Constitution dated 19th December 2022.

“You have drawn following conclusions in your Ruling, which I would address: (i) until and unless the current session is prorogued. I, being Governor cannot summon any fresh session; and, (ii) relying on the judgment of the Honorable Lahore High Court in Manzoor Ahmad Wattoo v. Federation of Pakistan (PLD 1997 Lahore 38), you have concluded that procedurally, there is a minimum limit of ten-day period which is mandatorily to be provided to the Chief Minister to obtain a vote of confidence from the Assembly. Separately, I would also like to draw your attention to your powers under Rules 209 and 209A of the Rules of Procedure of the Provincial Assembly of the Punjab, 1997.”

The governor, in his order, further said: “Regards the Assembly being in session, having been summoned by your good self, under clause (3) of Article 54 read with Article 127, please note that the current session of the Punjab Assembly can only be prorogued by you. Therefore, by ‘summoning of session’ for a vote under Article 130(7) in the aforenoted Order, it is implied that if the ongoing session was prorogued by your good self at any time before 1600hrs today, a new session was required to be summoned at 1600hrs on 21 December, 2022 for a vote under Article 130(7). In the alternate, a sitting of the Assembly at the noted time and date could have been summoned in the 41st Session of the Assembly, which your good self has also noted that it was summoned by me and was never prorogued; or a fresh session specifically summoned for the purposes of requiring the Chief Minister to obtain the vote of confidence. However, nowhere does the Constitution prevent Article 130(7) to take effect if the Assembly is already in session. Your reading of the Constitution essentially renders Article 130(7) redundant by not proroguing a session summoned under clause (3) of Article 54 read with Article 127 indefinitely, as is the case presently. 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. Kindly note that at the moment, the Chief Minister is fully functional, and is not under suspension, as was the case in Manzoor Ahmad Wattoo supra, where the then Chief Minister had been out of office for over a year. Therefore, there is nothing that prevents me from requiring the Chief Minister to obtain vote of confidence from the Assembly.”

The governor further said: “Your Ruling refers to the ten days period given to the then Chief Minister by the Honorable Lahore High Court in Manzoor Ahmad Wattoo supra and holds that such period be mandatorily provided to the Chief Minister in the instant case. I would like to state that this reference is misplaced. Firstly, there is nothing in Article 130(7), which prescribes a time period, unlike, for instance, Article 136(2), whereunder a vote of no confidence cannot be voted upon before the expiration of three days or later than seven days from the day on which the resolution for a vote of no confidence is moved in the Assembly. The framers of the Constitution provided time limits where they intended time limits to apply. Secondly, at the time Manzoor Ahmad Wattoo supra was decided, clause (3) of Article 130 provided for a sixty days period within which the Chief Minister was required to take a vote of confidence; however, even in those circumstances, since the then Chief Minister was in a state of suspension on account of imposition of Governor’s Rule under Article 234, the Honourable High Court granted only ten days. Therefore, your good self’s reliance on the aforesaid judgment is misplaced.

“Finally, please note that your Ruling is in violation of Rule 209 of the Rules of Procedure of the Provincial Assembly of the Punjab, 1997. Under sub-rule (1), a ruling on interpretation and enforcement of the relevant Articles of the Constitution as regulate the business of the Assembly can only be given on a ‘point of Order’. It is evident that no point of Order was raised on the floor of the house on 20th December 2022, and as it seems, your good self has given the Ruling in your office, which is in violation of Rule 209(1).”

“As the custodian of the House and holder of an esteemed constitutional office, it was imperative for your good self not to act in a partisan manner; or for that matter, in any other way that violates your oath. I would like to draw your attention that, as per the Constitution, the Assembly’s currently being in Session or otherwise does not have any effect whatsoever on the operation of Article 130(7),” the governor cleared and added that “Please take note that your aforesaid Ruling, consequent acts and omissions constitute and result in enabling the Chief Minister to refrain from obtaining a vote of confidence in terms of Article 130(7).”

The governor further said: “Helping and aiding the Chief Minister in refraining from fulfilling his duty and preventing the constitutional process to proceed to its logical end leads to the consequences stipulated in Rule 22 (7) of the Rules of Procedure of the Provincial Assembly of the Punjab, 1997.

“I would like to remind your good self that as the worthy Speaker of the Provincial Assembly of Punjab, you have taken oath, as provided in Third Schedule of the Constitution to discharge your duties and perform your functions honestly, to the best of your ability and faithfully in accordance with the Constitution, the law and the rules of the Assembly. YOU also have avowed to preserve, protect and defend the Constitution of Pakistan and not to allow your personal interest to influence your official conduct or your official decisions,” the governor said and concluded: “In view of the above, your Ruling has no bearing on the aforenoted Order dated 19th December 2022.”

Meanwhile, a private media outlet quoting sources reported that the Punjab governor has decided to de-notify Chief Minister Pervaiz Elahi after he did not seek the vote of confidence from the provincial assembly on Wednesday.

The notification for removing CM Pervaiz Elahi was prepared and signed by Governor Baligh Ur Rehman, sources within the Governor’s House told the outlet.

The governor completed consultations and the notification will be issued any time.

Sources added that the federal government chose to wait for the end of the day to close all constitutional passages for the Punjab chief minister (CM) and PA speaker.

It is pertinent to mention here that Punjab Assembly Speaker Sibtain Khan gave ruling against Governor Rehman’s order, wherein the latter directed Chief Minister Pervaiz Elahi to seek a vote of confidence in a special assembly session.

According to details, Provincial Minister for Law and Parliamentary Affairs Raja Basharat confirmed that Speaker Sibtain Khan has given ruling against governor’s order to summon session on December 21.

“As per the ruling, the governor cannot summon a session for chief minister to seek a vote of confidence from provincial assembly,” Basharat added. Moreover, the Assembly Secretariat did not issue the notification for a session on December 21.

A day earlier, a session of the Punjab Assembly (PA) was adjourned till December 23 (Friday) without any proceedings amid ruckus by opposition.

PA Speaker Sibtain Khan adjourned the session of Punjab Assembly till Friday without any proceedings. The quorum was not fulfilled and the session was lasted for only 15 minutes.

Punjab Assembly Speaker, meanwhile, wrote a letter to President Arif Alvi asking him to remove Governor Baligh Ur Rehman.

Raja Basharat said that under the Article 101(3) of the Constitution, the president can remove the governor.

The provincial law minister said that the Speaker has written to the president about ‘misconduct’ of the governor.

Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) Vice-President Fawad Chaudhry, meanwhile, said the Punjab governor might be removed by the president for ‘misconduct’, local media reported.

Baligh Ur Rehman will be dismissed by President Alvi based on misconduct if the governor issues a notification to denotify CM Punjab, “We will play with it (notification) like a paper-rocket,” said Fawad.

He said that a reference can be sent to the federal government on behalf of President Alvi, meanwhile, according to the Constitution, the chief minister will remain in his position as long as the number game is with him.

“It is illegal for the Punjab governor to denotify CM Elahi, as he got the majority vote of confidence,” Fawad said.

The Centre, meanwhile, has decided to deploy Frontier Constabulary and Rangers in the Punjab province. The Interior Ministry has directed the Punjab Rangers director general to deploy sufficient strength to protect the Governor’s House till further order. Interior Minister Rana Sanaullah has also asked police chief and principal secretary to do their duty as per the Constitution, and not to be a part of any act otherwise.

President Arif Alvi, meanwhile called on Imran Khan. He discussed the meetings he held with Minister for Finance and Revenue Senator Ishaq Dar and other federal ministers. Both leaders also exchanged views on decisions taken by the PTI’s senior leadership in Wednesday’s meeting and the party’s ally, PMLQ.

Separately, addressing a press conference in Lahore, Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) Vice-President Fawad Chaudhry has warned Punjab Governor Baligh-ur-Rehman of facing a trial under Article 6 of the Constitution, which deals with treason. Fawad asked the governor to refrain from crossing the limits, otherwise, he would face Article 6 trial.

He said that the Punjab Assembly’s Speaker declared the governor’s move unconstitutional, whereas the Lahore High Court had already ruled that the governor will give 10 days to the chief minister for getting the vote of confidence.

He claimed that the no-trust motion against Punjab CM Pervaiz Elahi, speaker and deputy speaker will fail and the provincial assembly will be dissolved immediately afterwards. After the dissolution of the Punjab Assembly, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KP) Assembly will be dissolved, he reiterated.

He said that the Pervaiz Elahi has the support of 187 lawmakers in the provincial assembly. The PTI leader asked the governor to challenge the PA speaker’s ruling in the court.

Fawad blamed PPP Co-Chairman Asif Ali Zardari for continuing horse-trading ahead of the no-trust vote. He alleged that Zardari contacted lawmakers and offered them Rs50 million each. He praised the PTI lawmakers for rejecting Zardari’s offer.

Slamming the ruling Pakistan Democratic Movement (PDM), he said that the political situation of Punjab is changing. He said the PDM parties are running away from the elections after making claims to be ready for fresh polls if assemblies are dissolved.

Speaking to reporters, PTI leader Hammad Azhar said that the party has decided to hold a public gathering outside Punjab Governor House today (Thursday) where the party , chairman Imran Khan, will announce a new plan of action.

Talking to reporters outside the Governor’s House in late hours of Wednesday, Prime Minister’s Adviser on Interior Atta Tarar has advised Pervaiz Elahi to resign, adding the governor has not taken any unconstitutional step by asking the CM to take vote of confidence.

Tarar said Pervaiz Elahi has run away form seeking the trust vote because he lacks the required numbers. Tarar said the constitution is being violated. He maintained the Speaker can only give ruling on a point of order. He explained Manzoor Watto case and the present case were different.

Tarar claimed the PTI-PMLQ alliance is witnessing infighting and two of their MPAs have resigned from the cabinet, adding the PTI members do not want to dissolve the assemblies. To a question about Fawad’s press talk, he said the PTI leader started speaking lies when he was in nursery class.

Earlier in the day, it was reported the PML-N has started consultation over governor’s rule in Punjab.

The legal team of PMLN informed the party leadership regarding the constitutional aspects of imposing governor rule in Punjab. If the governor’s order to de-notify the chief minister is not complied with, the governor’s rule could be imposed easily, the legal team said.

Asif Ali Zardari, in a statement, said it is PMLN’s right to get the Chief Minister office. “I see no difference between Hamza and Bilawal, PMLN has more numbers in Punjab and it is its right to get the CM slot,” he said.