Punjab Chief Minister-elect Hamza Shahbaz could not take the oath of his office, as the Punjab governor termed the entire election process unconstitutional.
Omar Sarfraz Cheema, who was appointed as the Punjab governor by the previous government of the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) just days before the chief minister’s election, made the matter more complicated, as he refused to administer the oath to the CM-elect.
Cheema, who earlier visited the PML-Q leader and Punjab Assembly Speaker Chaudhry Parvez Elahi at his residence, said that severe irregularities were seen in the electoral process through which Hamza became the CM. He also condemned what happened in the Punjab Assembly the other day during the election. “The sanctity of House was destroyed and it is really unfortunate,” Cheema said.
He further said that he had gone through the report submitted by the Punjab Assembly secretary regarding the election and severe irregularities were found in it. “I’ll discuss with the speaker, advocate general and my legal team before administering oath to Hamza,” he said.
After the governor’s reluctance to administer the oath to Hamza, the federal government moved a summary to the Presidency for Cheema’s removal.
Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) leader Makhdoom Ahmad Mehmood is likely to replace Cheema in the coveted office, but President Dr Arif Alvi is yet to respond to the summary moved by the federal government.
Soon after the news of Cheema’s removal went viral, he hurriedly called a press conference at the Governor’s House in which he said the prime minister could not remove him. He said that the authority to dismiss him only rested with the president and he would not leave his office until Arif Alvi removed him.
“I was appointed by the president and I’ll remain here in my office till his orders,” he said. Speaking on the unpleasant events that were witnessed in the Punjab Assembly during the election of the CM, Cheema blamed Hamza Shahbaz for the ruckus and pandemonium in the House. “If he had the required numerical strength, there was no need to make the entire process controversial,” he said. “The election is controversial and I’ll discuss it with my legal team before administering the oath,” he added.
Cheema also criticised Deputy Speaker Dost Muhammad Mazari, saying he had proved to be a turncoat and did not act in a non-partisan manner while conducting the assembly session. He also justified the attack on Mazari by the MPAs belonging to the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) and the Pakistan Muslim League-Quaid (PML-Q), saying it was a natural reaction because Mazari ditched the party at the last moment.
When asked about Hamza’s oath, Cheema said he could not endorse any unconstitutional act, adding that it was against the directives of the Lahore High Court. It is worth mentioning here that Deputy Speaker Mazari had forwarded a notification to the Governor’s House soon after the election process was completed, but he was reluctant to administer the oath. “I’ll go for the oath-taking if I am satisfied that the election process was according to the directives of the Lahore High Court,” he said. Meanwhile, PPP Parliamentary Leader in Punjab Assembly Syed Hassan Murtaza said that the so-called governor wanted to impose his decisions on the people of Punjab.
In response to the Punjab governor’s refusal to administer the oath to Hamza, the PPP leader said that the governor was bound to administer the oath as per the constitution. Terming the PTI a fascist group, Hassan Murtaza said that the former rulers want to destroy democracy in the country. He said if the Punjab governor had some moral courage, he should resign immediately. He said that if the governor failed to fulfil his constitutional responsibilities then the federal government could dismiss him. He further said that uncertainty in the largest province was not in the interest of the people. He also said that the president of Pakistan was bound to act on the advice of the prime minister.