EDITORIAL: What the future holds for democracy in Pakistan there can be no forecast except for the conjecture that it is getting murkier by the day — and if what happened Monday night is any indication the passage back to normality no longer figures on the map. After the sunset and before the midnight there were developments that tend to drag the country into a thicker quagmire.
Monday midnight was the deadline beyond which Omar Sarfraz Cheema was to be no more resident of the Governor’s House in Lahore. But he was told by President Arif Alvi not to leave that palatial edifice and keep working as governor of Punjab. Dr Alvi had rejected Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif’s advice, citing Article 101(3) and Article 48(2).
Under these provisions the Governor “shall hold office during the pleasure of the President” and the “President shall act in his discretion in respect of any matter in respect of he is empowered by the Constitution to do so and validity of anything done by the President in his discretion shall not be called in question on any ground whatsoever”.
Additionally, he said, the incumbent governor cannot be removed as there was neither any allegation of misconduct nor conviction by any court of law or of any act committed by him contrary to the Constitution of Pakistan.
But all of it was more in terms of generality than the position taken by Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif, whose advice to the president for removal of Governor Cheema was turned down, obliging the prime minister to notify his removal under Article 48 (1).
That being the backdrop, the removal of Governor Cheema may well be legally and constitutionally a right move, but there are no two opinions that it is bound to trigger a host of challenges to both federal and provincial governments.
Will Chaudhry Pervez Elahi, who is presently Speaker of the Punjab Assembly and is notified as acting governor till appointment of a new governor, take oath of office? This question has no clear answer because the battle lines are already drawn along party lines.
And, how to take the ousted governor Cheema’s warning that should he be forced to leave the Governor’s House a “civil war may ensue”. Rightly so, even before the notification became public the security provided to Omar Cheema was withdrawn; and the police locked the Governor’s House to ensure that demonstrators, if any, don’t make to that place.
Meanwhile, the leaderships on both sides of the political divide have reacted to the incident of governor’s removal in line with their respective perspectives. With a view to adding weight to the prime minister’s decision, Interior Minister Rana Sanaullah has argued that the Supreme Court has held that the President doesn’t have any “inherent” or “residual” powers, as he is only a figurehead in parliamentary democracy.
While Imran Khan has urged the apex court to take notice of ‘blatant’ violation of constitution after governor was de-notified, Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) stalwart and the architect of the 18th Constitutional Amendment, Senator Raza Rabbani, has accused President Alvi of continuously ‘violating’ the Constitution, saying ‘it is a fit case for his [Alvi’s] impeachment’.
In this newspaper’s view, however, honourable President Alvi must be well aware of the fact that he is a non-executive President, possessing no effective powers of discretionary intervention. His role has to be not different from his counterparts’ in India, Bangladesh, Germany, etc.
Unfortunately, however, little does he realise that his opposition to the current government that has emerged as a result of the then prime minister, Imran Khan’s failure to survive vote of no-confidence against him is causing a divisive power struggle, which is exacting a heavy toll on the country’s already beleaguered economy.
Copyright Business Recorder, 2022