Punjab Assembly speaker ‘disposes’ governor’s order requiring CM Elahi to take vote of confidence

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LAHORE: Punjab Assembly (PA) Speaker Sibtain Khan disposed on Tuesday Governor Balighur Rehman’s order requiring Chief Minister Parvez Elahi to obtain a vote of confidence from the house, saying that the instructions were “against the Constitution and Rules of Procedure”.

The speaker also adjourned the PA session till December 23 — the same day PTI plans to dissolve the provincial assemblies of Punjab and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa.

On Saturday, PTI Chairman Imran Khan announced that his governments in the two provinces will dissolve their assemblies on Friday to pave the way for fresh elections.

Subsequently, following days of hectic politicking, the Pakistan Democratic Movement (PDM) alliance sprang its own trap on Monday to limit the options available to Punjab Chief Minister Chaudhry Parvez Elahi.

In a double-edged move, Punjab Governor Balighur Rehman had asked the chief minister to obtain a vote of confidence from the PA on Wednesday (tomorrow), while PML-N and PPP lawmakers submitted a separate no-trust resolution against him in a bid to bar him from dissolving the assembly.

Under the law, the chief minister cannot dissolve the assembly if a no-confidence motion has been moved against him, while the governor’s requirement for the chief minister to seek a vote of confidence from the house means he has to ensure that he manages to secure 186 votes on Wednesday.

However, in a ruling during today’s PA session, Sibtain said that the assembly was “already in session” and “until and unless the current session is prorogued, the governor cannot summon any fresh session.”

The order — a copy of which is available with  — said that as per a Lahore High Court verdict, the matter of confidence in the chief minister could only be determined in a session that was “especially summoned for this purpose”.

It stated that the governor could not summon this special session while the current session was ongoing.

The ruling pointed out that the governor was empowered by Article 109 of the Constitution to summon or prorogue an assembly session, however, he had summoned the 41st assembly session but never prorogued it.

“That being the case, the governor is not empowered to summon the session requiring the chief minister to obtain a vote of confidence,” it added.

Therefore, the PA speaker ruled that “the order of governor requiring the chief minister to take a vote of confidence, being not in accordance with the aforementioned provisions of the Constitution and Rules of Procedure, may not be processed any further; hence, disposed of accordingly”.

Commenting on the matter after the PA session, the speaker told that he had had a meeting with lawyers on the interpretation of the Constitution and rules. “I have been saying this since the first day and I think [this interpretation] is correct,” he added.

Sibtain also termed the governor’s order to be “illegal and incorrect”.

Meanwhile, Chief Whip of PML-N Tahir Khalil Sindhu said the opposition alliance’s MPAs would reach the PA at 4pm tomorrow to attend the session summoned by the governor.

“The meeting called by the governor is in accordance with the Constitution and law,” he insisted.

Sindhu said CM Elahi would have to take a vote of confidence in any case, otherwise, he would cease to hold his office. “If the meeting does not take place tomorrow and the chief minister does not take the vote of confidence then the governor will de-notify him,” he added.

The PTI has 177 while the PML-Q has 10 members in the PA. On the other hand, the opposition boasts a combined 176 members from the PML-N, PPP and Rah-i-Haq parties.

Governor’s missive

According to a notification issued late on Monday night, the governor has summoned session of the Punjab Assembly on Wednesday at 4pm, and has required the chief minister to obtain a vote of confidence in terms of Article 130(7) of the Constitution.

In his order, the governor said CM Elahi has lost the confidence of his party president Chaudhry Shujaat and his own party MPAs. “It is widely known that over the last few weeks, serious differences of opinion have erupted between the two coalition parties – PTI and PML-Q – regarding political strategies, dissolution of assembly, development schemes and transfers of public officials.”

The order also cited differences between the coalition partners over inclusion of Khayal Ahmad of PTI in the provincial cabinet and resignation of provincial minister Sardar Hasnain Bahadur Dreshak.

The governor also cited Chaudhry Parvez Elahi’s Dec 4 statement that he was not going to dissolve the PA until March 2023 – “a position which is completely at odds with the PTI’s public position on the issue and it led to resignation of two PTI MPAs in protest.”