The Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaaf (PTI) on Thursday approached the Lahore High Court (LHC) challenging Hamza Shahbaz’s election as the Punjab chief minister and to bar him from working in this capacity.
Hamza was elected as the Punjab chief minister on April 16 during a provincial assembly session that was marred by mayhem and violence. He faced several delays in assuming charge of the CM Office because of Punjab governor Omar Sarfraz Cheema’s refusal to administer him oath. Hamza approached the LHC thrice, seeking directions for his oath to be administered. He was finally sworn in on April 30.
PTI lawmakers, including MPAs Mohammad Sibtain Khan, Zainab Umair, Mian Mohammad Aslam Iqbal, Syed Abbas Ali Shah and Ahsan Saleem Baryar, filed the petition and said that Hamza Shahbaz’s election was illegal. The petitioners argued that the session was held amid immense chaos and unfortunate events.
They made Hamza Shahbaz, the Punjab chief secretary, Punjab Assembly Deputy Speaker Sardar Dost Mohammad Mazari, the Punjab governor’s principal secretary and the Punjab Assembly’s secretary respondents. The petitioners said that Deputy Speaker Dost Muhammad Mazari misused his powers and took “unlawful” support from the police and the provincial officials for conducting, what they said, was a fraudulent’ election. They said that it was Mazari who, following that illegal election, made an announcement that Hamza had won.
They contended that the petitioners said it was judicial overreach which led Hamza to the administration of oath while votes of 25 PTI dissidents MPAs were also counted in the final tally for Hamza. Governor Cheema had also refused to accept the election results, they said.
They also submitted that as per the investigation conducted by the Punjab governor that time, the respondent secretary of the provincial assembly had tendered a report containing the various dimensions of the elections held on April 16, 2022 and had categorically informed the governor at the time that the election was unlawful.
They also said that the certificate subsequently issued by the respondent deputy speaker/acting speaker was without any lawful sanction and not having any legal authority.
The PTI lawmakers said that after assuming office, Hamza had launched a campaign of extreme vengeance against the petitioners and also against those who were politically associated with them. They submitted that Hamza’s election was a violation of the constitution as well as Rules of Business of the Punjab Assembly. They also said that Hamza had approached the LHC for holding the election and considered it an urgent matter because he enjoyed the support of 25 dissident PTI MPAs. They said the act of the dissidents was a violation of Article 63 of the constitution.
They also mentioned the Supreme Court’s interpretation of Article 63-A regarding the disqualification of lawmakers over defection in which the top court had opined the vote of the dissidents would not be counted. They said the opinion of the top court about the interpretation of Article 63-A of the constitution made it clear that the chief minister’s election was unlawful.
“The election held on 16-04-2022 [should] be declared as being without lawful authority and consequently be struck down on these grounds alone and keeping in view the scope and intent behind Article 63 of the Constitution,” the lawmakers argued.
They asked the court to declare Hamza Shahbaz’s election void ab initio (illegal) “in the interest of justice and fair play” and prayed to declare the office of the chief minister vacant besides restraining Hamza from working there and introducing himself as the chief executive of the province. Meanwhile, PTI MPAs Muhammad Rizwan and Shahid Nawaz sent a letter to Punjab chief secretary and asked him to withdraw the notification issued for the appointment of Hamza Shahbaz as Punjab chief minister.