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Pakistan

LHC reinstates Parvez Elahi as Punjab Chief Minister

  • CM assures court he will not dissolve provincial assembly after regaining control of the office
Published December 23, 2022

The Lahore High Court (LHC) on Friday reinstated Chief Minister Parvez Elahi and his cabinet after he assured the court that he would not dissolve the provincial assembly after regaining control of the office, Aaj News reported.

The court had asked Elahi to submit an undertaking that he would not dissolve the assembly as the move would worsen the ongoing political turmoil in the province.

‘Assemblies have to be dissolved’

Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) leader Fawad Chaudhry said that the Governor’s notification to de-notify Parvez Elahi as Punjab chief minister was unconstitutional and the court order had nullified it.

Addressing the media in Lahore right after the court’s decision, Fawad said that the provincial assemblies would be dissolved, after all, noting that the chief minister had delayed the dissolution until the next hearing, which is due on January 11, 2023.

The PTI leader said the governor went out of the way and violated the Constitution, but could send an elected chief minister home.

Fawad added that the Punjab chief secretary was pressurised to implement the governor’s unconstitutional order, claiming that he was even manhandled and locked up in a room.

‘Will seek vote of confidence’

Speaking to the media outside the courtroom, Parvez Elahi’s son, Moonis Elahi, said that the PML-Q respected the judiciary. “We will seek a vote of confidence and dissolve the assembly the same day,” he said.

For his part, Parvez Elahi said that the decision to dissolve the assembly was “final”, adding that PTI chief Imran Khan’s decision in this regard would be “fully implemented”.

“The imported government wants to run away from elections. We will present the imported government in the people’s court and the people will make the final decision,” he said.

Earlier, Punjab Governor Baligh-ur-Rehman had de-notified the Pakistan Muslim League-Quaid (PML-Q) leader as the chief minister as he did not take a vote of confidence despite the passage of several hours.

On Friday, Parvez Elahi moved the LHC against Punjab Governor’s orders, saying it was “unconstitutional, unlawful and of no legal effect”.

A larger bench, headed by Justice Abid Aziz, and comprising Justice Tariq Saleem Sheikh, Justice Chaudhry Muhammad Iqbal, Justice Muzamil Akhtar Shabir, and Justice Asim Hafeez, heard Parvez Elahi’s petition against the de-notification order.

Today’s hearing

At the outset of the hearing, Elahi’s counsel Barrister Ali Zafar explained to the court how the governor’s notification to remove his client as chief minister was against the constitution. He also explained the two constitutional steps that can be used to remove a chief minister – through a no-confidence motion and the vote of confidence advised by the governor.

“If the governor feels the chief minister has lost his majority, then a session can be called in for the purpose,” Barrister Ali Zafar said, adding that in this case, CM Elahi enjoys the support of PTI, the single largest party in the provincial assembly and its ally, PML-Q.

“Only if PTI says that it is not with the chief minister then it can be said that Elahi has lost the majority but the governor cannot ask the CM to take a vote of confidence in two hours,” said Zafar.

“All members need to be sent a notice,” maintained Elahi’s counsel. He added that at times some lawmakers are abroad so the speaker can give 10 days of notice.

Justice Tariq Saleem Sheikh remarked that the voting can be done immediately, and it was not necessary to provide a 10-day notice.

To this, Zafar told the judge that the whole process [of summoning the assembly session] is between the governor and the speaker, and the chief minister could not summon a session of the provincial assembly.

“Are you saying that summoning the session is the speaker’s prerogative,” asked Justice Abid Aziz Sheikh. To this, Zafar responded in the affirmative.

“The law uses the word secretary then how it is the speaker’s prerogative,” asked Justice Sheikh.

Zafar then referred to Rule 24 of the Punjab Assembly, which states that the summoning and adjourning of the session is the speaker’s prerogative.

Justice Sheikh told Zafar that the question is about an appropriate time frame.

“According to the Constitution, the governor can summon a session. Under the rules, the speaker gives the date of the meeting,” said Zafar. The chief minister has to come and take the vote of confidence he cannot take it in the air, said Barrister Zafar.

At this point, Justice Abid Aziz Sheikh interjected and remarked that there has been no voting, adding that if the PML-Q and PTI have the majority then there is no issue and a time can be given.

“For now we only want the suspension of the notification for removal from office. The governor concluded that Parvez Elahi avoided taking the vote of confidence,” said Zafar. He also claimed that the governor violated his oath.

“If there is no cabinet, then there is no government under Mustafa Impex case,” remarked Justice Abid.

Then, Justice Sheikh asked that if the high court reinstates the chief minister immediately, will he dissolve the assembly. “A similar matter came up during the Manzoor Wattoo case. So, can you give us an undertaking that the assembly will not be dissolved?”

In response, Barrister Zafar said that since a no-confidence motion has been moved, the assembly cannot be dissolved. The court then told the lawyer that the no-confidence motion has been withdrawn.

“If your [client] dissolves the assembly, then the petition will become ineffective and a new crisis will be upon us,” the court remarked.

The court then asked Zafar to consult his client and adjourned the hearing for 10 minutes.

Once the hearing resumed, Barrister Zafar said that he would not be able to provide an undertaking to the court as of now and urged the court to reinstate the chief minister and order him to not dissolve the assembly.

In response, the LHC bench noted that the court could not give interim relief to anyone without any assurance. “How can the court stop the chief minister from exercising his constitutional right?” Justice Hafeez asked.

The court then adjourned the hearing once again, this time for an hour and asked the lawyer to consult his client.

Earlier on Friday, PML-Q leader Chaudhry Parvez Elahi filed on Friday a plea in the LHC against Punjab Governor Balighur Rehman’s orders de-notifying him as the province’s chief minister.

On Thursday, the Punjab Governor de-notified Elahi after his failure to obtain a vote of confidence from the provincial assembly.

Following this, the PTI rejected the governor’s action, saying that it has no legal status.

In his petition, Elahi said that the move is “unconstitutional, unlawful and of no legal effect”.

The petition said that Rehman’s order for the vote of confidence and the de-notification was passed “without lawful authority and are of no legal effect”.

Elahi also prayed that it may kindly be declared that he does not cease to hold his office as chief minister Punjab.

Punjab: politicians wade into deeper, murkier waters

Meanwhile, Speaker of Punjab Assembly Sibtain Khan has said that voting on a no-confidence motion would be conducted in the first week of January. He said that Rehman cannot de-notify Elahi whether the assembly is in session or not.

The speaker said that if the governor de-notified the chief minister he would send that letter to the president.

He further said that in his letter to the Punjab governor, he had talked about a no-confidence motion against CM Elahi. He had also talked about assigning ministry to Khyal Ahmed and about Hasnain Bahadur Dreshak, which were internal matters of the PTI.

He said that in his response to the governor’s letter, he had written that according to Article 130(7), the governor has to convene a new session and that the governor could not call a new session during the ongoing session. He said that his reply had been sent to the governor.

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