The ongoing constitutional crisis in Punjab deepened on Tuesday after Punjab Assembly Speaker Chaudhry Parvez Elahi refused to take charge as acting governor following the removal of Omar Sarfaraz Cheema on late Monday.
A notification issued by the Cabinet Division that de-notified Cheema as governor stated that the speaker of the provincial assembly shall take charge as acting governor till a new appointment is made. However, Elahi refused to take charge as acting governor after consulting his legal team.
Reliable sources told MinuteMirror that the Governor’s House staff visited him to get his signatures on the summary but he refused and the staff went back.
Later, a statement was issued by the office of Elahi in which it was stated that he would continue his duties as the Punjab Assembly speaker as he has not yet taken charge as the acting governor of Punjab.
“The present government of the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) has set up a factory of unconstitutional measures, but I will carry out my duties in accordance with the constitution and law,” Elahi said.
He also spoke to the sacked governor over the phone to express solidarity with him. “The PML-N is violating the constitution but together we will continue to uphold the constitution and resist all their unconstitutional actions,” he told Cheema.
Earlier, a large contingent of police was deputed outside the Governor’s House. The security staff of Cheema was also withdrawn while the Governor’s House was told to deny entry to Cheema.
Cheema had already rejected the notification of his removal and said that he is consulting his legal team to devise a future strategy. Sources privy to the development told this scribe that Elahi is reluctant to take charge as acting governor as he might lose his speakership if he vacates the office.
If Elahi becomes acting governor, then Deputy Speaker Sardar Dost Muhammad Mazari will take charge as acting speaker.
Mazari, who is considered close to the PML-N, will call the assembly session to conduct the voting on a no-trust motion already submitted against Elahi. The PML-N has the required strength to oust Elahi through the no-trust motion and, therefore, he isn’t assuming the charge of acting governor.
Former Minister for law and parliamentary affairs Raja Basharat said that Punjab is facing the worst constitutional crisis and the situation will further worsen. “The election and oath of Chief Minister Hamza are unconstitutional and, therefore, the judiciary should take notice of it,” Basharat said.
President Dr Arif Alvi had earlier rejected Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif’s advice to remove the Punjab governor – dampening the PML-N’s hopes that the office will be vacated in a day or two. Dr Alvi rejected the prime minister’s summary using Article 101(3), which says the governor shall hold the office “during the pleasure” of the president (for as long as the president pleases).
However, the federal cabinet on Tuesday declared the rejection of the summary by the president unconstitutional.
Meanwhile, former prime minister and Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) Chairman Imran Khan Tuesday urged the Supreme Court to take notice of what he described as a “blatant violation” of the constitution and law in Punjab after Omar was removed as the province’s governor. In a statement, Imran demanded the top court take “immediate notice of the blatant violation of the Constitution and the law in Punjab”.
“Imported puppets are stirring up constitutional anarchy and chaos in Punjab,” Imran said. “First, a criminal puppet was imposed on the province as a chief minister through a ghost election. Now, keeping all constitutional requirements aside, the office of the president has been insulted.” He condemned what he termed an embarrassing attempt to remove the Punjab governor because of his insistence on protecting the constitution.
Before Cheema’s removal, Interior Minister Rana Sanaullah had advised him to go home “respectably” and ensure that he, as well as President Alvi, did not indulge in any activity that would lead to “public wrath” in the days to come.
“The president is bound to implement the prime minister’s advice, and any deviation will tantamount to a violation of the Constitution,” he asserted.
Following Sanaullah’s warning, Cheema had taken to Twitter to say that the “Sicilian mafia” was all set to attack his office with unconstitutional summaries and notifications.