• Governor says CM ‘refrained from obtaining vote of confidence’, ceased to hold office
• Asks Elahi to stay until successor appointed
• Terming order ‘illegal’, Elahi vows to move court
• Fawad says reference to be sent to president for governor’s ouster
In LAHORE Punjab Governor Balighur Rehman sprang into action late on Thursday night and denotified Chaudhry Parvez Elahi as chief minister of the largest province in a bid to forestall ousted premier Imran Khan’s plan to dissolve the Punjab Assembly.
The development was immediately described as ‘illegal’ by Mr Elahi, who said he would move the court against the governor’s order on Friday (today).
PTI senior leader Fawad Chaudhry also termed the governor’s order illegal and said that “a selected governor has denotified an elected chief minister”.
Punjab Chief Secretary Abdullah Sumbal, who was appointed by the federal government on Wednesday, issued a notification in line with the governor’s order.
After the governor and the chief secretary’s notifications, Mr Elahi called an emergency meeting at his residence in which the advocate general of Punjab, Speaker Sibtain Khan, Moonis Elahi, Law Minister Basharat Raja and some other senior leaders were present to finalise Friday’s strategy.
In his order dated Dec 22, the governor said that since the chief minister had refrained from taking a vote of confidence at the appointed day and time, he ceased to hold the office.
He, however, asked Mr Elahi to continue working as chief minister until his successor takes charge.
Fawad Chaudhry tweeted that there was “no legal status of the governor’s order de-notifying CM Parvez Elahi. Mr Elahi and his cabinet will continue to perform their duties. A reference against the governor will be sent to the president for his ouster”.
Sources said the governor was given the go-ahead to denotify Mr Elahi following the failure of PPP senior leader Asif Ali Zardari and PML-Q president Chaudhry Shujaat Hussain to woo the PTI and PML-Q lawmakers in Punjab.
The governor in the order said: “Consequent to the facts that Ch. Parvez Elahi … refrained from obtaining the vote of confidence at 1600 hours yesterday (Wednesday), in line with an order under Article 130(7) of the Constitution … issued under my hand on Dec 19, 2022, in line with Rule 22(7) of the Rules of Procedure of provincial assembly of Punjab, 1997, and that he still has not done so even after the lapse of another 24 hours, I am satisfied that he does not command the confidence of the majority of the members of the Punjab Assembly, and therefore ceases to hold his office with immediate effect.”
As a result, “the provincial cabinet stands dissolved forthwith”, he said.
In terms of Article 133 of the Constitution, Mr Elahi, “former Punjab CM, is hereby asked to continue to hold office until his successor enters upon the office of the chief minister”, the governor said.
However, it remains to be seen whether the governor’s late-night order will hold the field or not.
Earlier in the day, the constituent parties of the ruling coalition in the Centre engaged in a lengthy huddle to decide whether Governor Rehman should be given the go-ahead to denotify Mr Elahi right away or wait till the PTI and PML-Q make their move in the face of the governor’s directive to the chief executive to seek a vote of confidence.
The coalition parties were of the view that they should stick to having the governor’s order implemented by forcing the chief minister to seek a vote of confidence.
Interior Minister Rana Sanaullah, federal minister of the PML-Q (Shujaat group) Tariq Bashir Cheema, PPP Sindh Minister Nasir Hussain Shah and PM’s Special Assistant Malik Ahmad Khan were present in the meeting. Governor Rehman and the PML-N leaders also held separate meetings with legal experts in this regard.
Zardari’s efforts fail
“The PML-N and PPP are in no mood to push for their no-confidence motion against the chief minister in the Punjab Assembly,” a PML-N insider told Dawn after the meeting. “The motion was only filed to stop the CM from dissolving the assembly. At present, we don’t have the 186 votes required to oust the chief minister, and efforts of PPP’s Asif Ali Zardari to coax at least six PML-Q lawmakers have yet to bear fruit, rather he has failed. If the PA speaker adopts the no-trust motion, the PMLN and PPP are not ready to go for it.”
PM’s Special Assistant Attaullah Tarar told a private TV channel that after the expiry of the governor’s deadline to Punjab Assembly Speaker Sibtain Khan, the governor had decided to give some “more time” to him to implement the order regarding CM Elahi’s vote of confidence.
“As this matter eventually has to land in court, the governor was observing caution. Earlier, 48 hours were given to the speaker to execute the order. As the speaker did not ask CM Elahi to take a vote of confidence till Thursday, the governor decided to issue an order denotifying the chief minister.”
The Punjab Assembly’s ongoing session will be held on Friday (today). Speaker Sibtain Khan on Tuesday had disposed of the governor’s order for CM Elahi to obtain a vote of confidence from the house, terming it “against the Constitution and Rules of Procedure”.
Talking to reporters outside the Governor House earlier, Rana Sanaullah said Mr Elahi had “constitutionally” ceased to be the chief minister after skipping the vote of confidence.
“CM Elahi now cannot advise dissolution of the Punjab Assembly after he did not obtain a vote of confidence on the governor’s order. I think the governor’s order to denotify Mr Elahi is just a formality now,” he remarked.
Hamza’s ‘mysterious’ absence
As the PML-N and PPP are busy making moves in Punjab to stop the provincial assembly’s dissolution, the opposition leader in the house, Hamza Shehbaz, is conspicuous by his absence. He travelled to London over a week ago and is expressing no interest in the province his party once ruled.
Since his defeat at the hands of Mr Elahi in the chief minister’s election in July, Hamza has been away from any party activity. Speculations are rife within the party that “he is being cut to size” regarding PML-N affairs by his cousin Maryam Nawaz or that his brother Suleman Shehbaz, who returned home after four years in self-exile, may be given a role in the party in the coming days.
If his wings aren’t being ‘clipped’, questions are being raised over the opposition leader’s ‘lack of seriousness’ in such a crucial time for the party in its bastion of Punjab.