Tuesday February 07, 2023

LHC restores CM Parvez Elahi, cabinet

The LHC restored Punjab CM Parvez Elahi and his cabinet after he submitted an undertaking that he would not dissolve the assembly till the next date of hearing on January 11

December 24, 2022
Punjab CM Chaudhry Parvez Elahi. Radio Pakistan/File
Punjab CM Chaudhry Parvez Elahi. Radio Pakistan/File

LAHORE: The Lahore High Court Friday restored Punjab Chief Minister Parvez Elahi and his cabinet after he submitted an undertaking that he would not dissolve the assembly till the next date of hearing on January 11.

A five-member bench of the Lahore High Court — headed by Justice Abid Aziz Sheikh and comprising Justice Chaudhry Muhammad Iqbal, Justice Tariq Saleem Sheikh, Justice Asim Hafeez and Justice Muzamil Akhtar Shabir — heard the case. The court order also quoted the undertaking of Parvez Elahi, which said, “I Chaudhry Parvez Elahi, Chief Minister Punjab, undertake that if the governor’s order is suspended and the chief minister and cabinet is restored to its original position, I shall not advise the governor to dissolve the assembly till the next date of hearing”.

The court order added, “In view of the submissions and undertaking given by the petitioner (Parvez Elahi), the operation of the impugned orders of the governor on December 19 and 22 shall be held in abeyance till the next date of hearing”. However, the order will not preclude the petitioner from taking a vote of confidence on his own accord, the bench concluded. During the course of hearing, Advocate Khalid Ishaque, appearing on behalf of the governor, submitted (without submitting the power of attorney) that the latter was ready to withdraw the impugned orders if the petitioner, Parvez Elahi, took a vote of confidence within seven days. He also submitted that Parvez Elahi should also undertake that he would not dissolve the assembly in the period. To which, the counsel of Parvez Elahi submitted that once the offer was received in writing, he would respond to it after seeking instructions from his client.

The bench was hearing Parvez Elahi’s petition filed against his de-notification as chief minister by the Punjab governor. Through his counsel Barrister Ali Zafar, he implored the court to declare the governor’s notification illegal. “A chief minister is elected by an assembly and can be removed through a vote of confidence. The second process is to ask the chief minister to take a vote of confidence,” he argued, adding that if the governor feels the chief minister has lost his majority, then a session can be called for the purpose. He argued that if the PTI said it was not with the chief minister, then it could be said that Parvez Elahi had lost the majority but the governor could not ask the chief minister to take a vote of confidence in two hours.

He contended that all members needed to be sent a notice as at times some lawmakers were abroad, so the speaker could give a 10-day notice. To which Justice Sheikh observed, “It is also possible that the speaker holds voting immediately. It is not necessary to give a 10-day notice.” Zafar responded that the whole process (of summoning the assembly session) was between the governor and the speaker. He added that setting a date was the prerogative of the speaker. “What the governor did (denotifying the chief minister) does not mean that the CM failed to secure the vote of confidence. The chief minister does not have the authority to call a session of the assembly,” he contended. “Are you saying that summoning a session is the speaker’s prerogative,” asked the court. To it, Zafar responded in the affirmative. “The law uses the word “secretary,” then how is it the speaker’s prerogative,” asked Justice Sheikh. Zafar then told the bench that the Rule 24 states that the speaker convenes and adjourns the session. Justice Sheikh told Zafar that the question was about an appropriate timeframe. Zafar argued that according to the Constitution, the governor can summon a session. “Under the rules, the speaker gives the date of the meeting. The chief minister has to come and take the vote of confidence; he cannot take it in the air,” Barrister Zafar added.

He argued, “The governor cannot say that the chief minister has not taken the vote of confidence. When there is no session, then how can the CM take a vote of trust. There was a disagreement between the governor and the speaker on calling the meeting.” At this point, Justice Sheikh interjected and remarked that there had been no voting, adding that if the PMLQ and the PTI had the majority then there was no issue and a timeframe could be given. “For now we only want the suspension of the notification for removal from office. The governor concluded that Parvez Elahi had avoided taking the vote of confidence,” Zafar said, claiming that the governor had violated his oath. “If there is no cabinet, then there is no government under the Mustafa Ampex case,” remarked Justice Abid. Then, Justice Sheikh asked if the high court restored the chief minister immediately, would he dissolve the assembly? “A similar matter came up during the Manzoor Wattoo case. So, can you give us an undertaking that the assembly will not be dissolved?” In response, Barrister Zafar said that since a no-confidence motion had been moved, the assembly could not be dissolved. The court then told the lawyer that the no-confidence motion had been withdrawn. “If your client dissolves the assembly, then the petition will become ineffective and a new crisis will be upon us,” the court remarked. It then asked Zafar to consult his client and adjourned the hearing for 10 minutes.

After the hearing resumed, Barrister Zafar said that he would not be able to provide an undertaking to the court and prayed it to reinstate the chief minister and order him not to dissolve the assembly. However, the bench observed that it could not give interim relief to anyone without an assurance. “How can the court stop the chief minister from exercising his constitutional right?” Justice Hafeez asked. The court then adjourned the hearing once again, this time for an hour and asked the lawyer to consult his client. When the hearing resumed, Barrister Zafar furnished an undertaking from Parvez Elahi assuring that he would not dissolve the assembly till the next date of hearing.

Earlier in the day, a judge had recused himself from the case after which the bench was dissolved. The LHC CJ had formed a five-member bench headed by Justice Abid Sheikh to hear the petition. However, when the hearing started, Justice Sheikh said that Justice Farooq Haider had represented the petitioner in many cases and he requested to be excluded from the bench. After it, the matter was referred to the chief justice. Then, Justice Hafeez was included in the bench.

On Friday, the Punjab Assembly passed a resolution against the governor’s “illegal” move to dismiss Parvez Elahi as chief minister. PTI MPA Aslam Iqbal moved the resolution calling on President Arif Alvi to take action against the governor. Speaker Sibtain Khan chaired amid sloganeering by the opposition. The opposition MPAs walked out before the resolution against the governor was presented. The resolution said the “imported” government in the Centre had “attacked” Punjab and attempted to destabilise the province. “People, who sold their conscience, have initiated an undemocratic invasion of the House and tried to destabilise the government,” the resolution added.

“The Punjab governor, through an “illegal” order against the elected CM and provincial cabinet, transgressed his authority, disrespected the people’s mandate, harmed the sanctity of the House and created an administrative crisis in the province. The President should take notice of the “shameful” move. He should also initiate proceedings to remove the governor from his office,” the resolution added. Aslam Iqbal said the governor had misinterpreted the Constitution and he likened the governor’s move to 58(2)B which was used in the past.

Chief Minister Parvez Elahi said that no matter what his political enemies attempted to do, his government would continue to rule in Punjab. “We do not seek anyone’s help except Allah and Prophet Muhammad (PBUH). We will continue our work and I assure all of you today that even our generations will work for the religion.”

Rana Mashood of the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PMLN) questioned, “Today is December 23, why aren’t you dissolving the assemblies?” A privilege motion and was also presented against the Punjab chief secretary.

Four bills including the Punjab Quran Printing Amendment Bill were approved in the House, while after completing the agenda, Punjab Assembly Speaker Sibtain Khan adjourned the meeting until 2pm on December 26.

Earlier, PML-N and PPP leaders withdrew the no-confidence motion against Parvez Elahi as the parties considered it unnecessary after the PMLQ leader “ceased to be the chief minister” following his de-notification.

Meanwhile, Chief Minister Parvez Elahi thanked Allah Almighty after the Khatam Al-Nabiyeen University and Quran Act Bill was passed by the Punjab Assembly. He highlighted that the approval of the Punjab Public Defendant Service Bill by the Punjab cabinet was a historic step to provide free legal aid to the common man. Earlier, the chief minister presided over a joint parliamentary party meeting of the PTI and the PMLQ at the Punjab Assembly in which a strategy was chalked out for the session. The MPAs reposed their complete trust in the leadership of PTI Chairman Imran Khan and Chief Minister Parvez Elahi.