Finally, the constitutional crisis in Punjab is over as National Assembly Speaker Raja Parvez Ashraf gave the oath to newly elected Chief Minister Hamza Shehbaz Sharif.
Though Punjab Governor Umar Sarfaraz Cheema has rejected the resignation of former chief minister Sardar Usman Buzdar, pointing to some lacunas, the government still managed it.
The oath ceremony was held on the orders of Lahore High Court in Lahore on Saturday.
Some critics said that after the oath-taking ceremony, the constitutional crisis deepened. When a party challenged the single-bench ruling and it was admitted for hearing, there was no question of implementation of an order, said Azhar Siddique advocate. Moreover, when the governor rejects the resignation of the chief minister, it becomes a constitutional requirement to first refurnish the fresh resignation by the CM and then after it is accepted by the governor, the new CM could have taken oath. There was no provision of the NA Speaker to administer oath of the CM when governor and speaker hold offices.
The critics further said that the out-going ruling coalition and the speaker of the provincial assembly have refused to nod the legality of the newly-elected chief minister of Punjab. Chief Minister Buzdar also convened meeting of his cabinet after Governor Cheema rejected his resignation. The bureaucracy, as this newspaper investigated, was all responsive to newly elected CM Hamza instead of Buzdar. Both the CS and inspector general of police have always obeyed the orders of the newly elected CM on different occasions. On the CM’s election day, the police raided the assembly and yesterday it also raided the Governor House against the will of the constitutional office holder, the governor.
Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz lawyer Nasir Ahmad Kamboh said the PTI was responsible for creating constitutional crisis in the province. He said that on the court’s direction, the oath was administered by the speaker of the National Assembly. The PTI as a whole disobeyed the court directions, he held.
Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf activist Tariq Cheema said that the purpose of this delay was to explore all the characters of the conspiracy. He said that all and sundry now know why the governor of Punjab and president of Pakistan paid no heed to giving an oath to the CM Punjab. He said that it was the governor’s job to watch interests of the federation and that nothing wrong was happening in the province. He added that the governor was of the mind that all the political numbers game was just a drama staged to manoeuvre the democratic values. The Punjab governor has also accused the provincial political setup of hijacking the institutions by force, he said.
After Chief Minister Hamza Shahbaz Sharif resumes office, there would be challenges in his way. The new budget for the upcoming fiscal year and the formation of an Annual Development Program would be prime areas of focus for the new government where it would need to work hard.
There would be major issues the government will have to contend with that include strong opposition from the former ruling party, the other being load-shedding and petroleum availability crisis, price hike and last but not the least, the trust deficit on the government.
As Punjab is mostly an agrarian society, there are concerns among the farming community. The farmers of sugarcane crops may face a heavy crisis as the ruling elite and its allies own a big part of the sugar industry. The PTI government had ensured timely payments to the farming community, though it could not ensure a smooth supply of the fertilizers.
Pharmaceutical, textile, construction and other such industries are also facing a financial crunch as there are worst outages and power breakdowns in the province.
Ease of doing business is still in the doldrums despite all the drum-beating of consecutive governments as political uncertainty continues.
As the wheat procurement season is on its peak, there would be cross-border smuggling to other provinces and other countries like Afghanistan. The role of middlemen and mafias would also be a headache for the new administration.
Moreover, the political leadership will have to face the development challenges and stay vigilant to keep focused. Good governance would be another issue as the newly elected government after the in-house change would surely miss the direct public mandate for fulfilling their expectations.
The coalition government may itself prove a problem in the long-run of running the provincial business. The educated youth that the outgoing ruling party had politically charged a lot faces the highest unemployment rates in the province and are dissatisfied with the service conditions of the public sector organizations. The dwindling situation of each sector including the agriculture, industry and services show that the crisis is multidimensional.
It was the biggest failure of the outgoing chief minister of Punjab that he could not focus on development, rather, he focused on transfers and postings of officers. The new government would have to undergo a massive exercise of reshuffling the officers. It is most likely that the posting of the PML-N like-minded officers on lucrative positions would be ensured.
One another major challenge for Hamza would be the self-serving politico-bureaucratic-police gridlock that needs to be broken. His father, ex-chief minister of Punjab and incumbent prime minister of Pakistan Shehbaz Sharif could not do it despite his tall claims. Both thana (police) and patwar (revenue) cultures are still malodorous in the province.
On top of these issues, there is a dire need to make the provincial capital and other big cities environment-friendly. Lahore for some time has been carrying a stain of being the number one polluted city in the world because eco-friendly measures were not equivalent to industrial development.
In another development, a constitutional pillar has notified time-scale promotions for its stenographers, who are usually fresh graduates. After recruitment in grade 17, they could be promoted to the next grades after every seven years. The judges of the lower judiciary have also been given time-scale promotions. The additional district and sessions judges will be elevated to grade 22 D&SJs.
No one can deny better service structure and future prospects of any employee but when the performance of any public sector organization is under question there is a need to put in place a very strict criteria for promotions. When we see the international ranking of one pillar of the state, one can’t appreciate the steps taken to financially empower its employees. Such steps would just add to the miseries of poor taxpayers of the country.
The service delivery in the public sector is very poor, there are political hirings, job quotas and there is a concept to get full for doing nothing. There are gratuity and pensionary benefits for the public sector employees which make it way better as compared to the private sector.
We have inherited the colonial legal system but we have attempted to move forward to modify its age-old procedures. In a way, we are still frozen in the 1850s while the masterminds of this crooked system have modified their judicial system.
Many in the law community criticize that the present system is expensive, time-consuming, inequitable and more analogous to procedures than being relief providing. It serves the elite and rich class of the society only. They also question the procedures for the appointment to the superior judiciary.
Also, the PTI government had announced that it wanted to distribute jobs to the unemployed in order to get the political mileage. Reportedly, the PTI government had to offer 100,000 jobs in grades 1 to 15. If materialized there was a proposal to grant treasury MPAs a share exceeding 5,000 vacancies. It was also claimed that there would have been a total of 35,000 jobs for the political representatives of the party. An officer told that the purpose of trimming the powers of the Public Service Commission by the Usman Buzdar government was to recruit as many people from south Punjab as possible. He said that Buzdar only wanted recruitments from his home division.
In the tenure of the speaker of Punjab assembly, Ch Parvez Elahi, many recruitments were made in the Punjab Assembly Secretariat, he alleged. The high-paced promotion of his secretary Punjab Assembly, Muhammad Khan Bhatti, to the highest grade 22 can be quoted as an example, the officer revealed.
Another senior officer of the Secretariat Service, on the condition of anonymity, said that the Rules Of Business 2011 should be amended to define the functions of all public sector departments. Powers should be devolved to the district level on the style of county-system in many of the western countries, including the UK, he suggested. There should be very few federal services like armed forces and tax collection units, while all others including civil services and police should be devolved to the district level, he further opined.
Moreover, he added, there was no need to keep services on provincial or federal levels. In the present scenario, all the focus of officers was on transfers and postings, and not service delivery, he stated. He said that only merit-based promotions be made instead of upholding time-scale or quota system. The job of the provincial and federal governments should be policy-making, legislation and monitoring only. The rest of the service delivery matters such as education, health, policing, cleansing and such should be the local government’s functions.