Punjab governor declines oath to Hamza Shahbaz

On Sunday, Punjab Governor Omer Sarfraz Cheema refused to administer the oath of office to newly-elected Chief Minister Hamza Shahbaz, citing the Punjab Assembly secretary’s report, the Lahore High Court’s instructions, and the facts presented to him as raising doubts about the chief minister’s election’s legitimacy.

“I have written to the Punjab advocate general and the Punjab Assembly speaker to seek their advice on the assembly secretary’s report, LHC instructions, and other facts so that I can decide whether or not to perform the oath-taking ceremony at the Governor House,” he added.

At a press conference, the governor stated that he could not support anything that went beyond the scope of the Constitution.

The governor, according to the chief secretary, has no ability to throw aside the election on any basis under the Constitution or any legislation.

“If the honourable governor does so, he may be accountable for constitutional infractions,” he said, adding that “the Punjab Assembly secretary had in all likelihood placed himself susceptible to contempt proceedings for a clearly illegal report that stinks of mala fide.”

Meanwhile, the PML-N has given up hope that Hamza Shehbaz will be sworn in on Sunday, and has postponed the celebrations it had planned.

During the governor’s press conference, a news item reporting PML-N central spokesperson Maryam Aurangzeb said that Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif had used his discretionary powers to remove the governor from his position.

The governor, on the other hand, dismissed the claim, claiming that he held and would continue to hold a constitutional office. “Only the president of Pakistan has the authority to de-notify a governor, which he has yet to do,” he claimed.

Fawad Chaudhry, the former federal communications minister, rushed to the governor’s aid shortly after, tweeting, “President of Pakistan Dr Arif Alvi has denied a news item claiming the Punjab governor has been sacked.”

Mr Chaudhry agreed that only the president had the authority to do so, and that no summary for the governor’s removal had yet arrived at the president’s office. As a result, he stated, Governor Cheema would continue to serve as the governor of Punjab.

However, sources told Dawn that Shehbaz Sharif had moved a summary to the president requesting that the governor be removed.

The governor also chastised PML-N legislators for breaking the law and the Constitution, stating they should have shown more forbearance. He went on to say that PML-N lawmakers had created a bad precedent. “If Hamza Shehbaz had a majority, he should not have displayed such prejudice that tainted the entire election,” he continued.

The governor said that the deputy speaker was partisan during the election, and that he ordered goons to torture PTI and PML-Q legislators, as well as Speaker Chaudhry Parvez Elahi.

The governor responded to a query by saying that PTI and PML-Q MPs attacked the deputy speaker because they observed their own deputy speaker siding with the opposition.

Despite the fact that Deputy Speaker Dost Muhammad Mazari had suspended the assembly secretary and three other employees on Saturday for being recalcitrant and refusing lawful directives, the governor called the assembly secretary to provide a report on the election’s conduct.

The deputy speaker had entered the house with his personal guards as well as his Punjab police detail, who manhandled the legislators, according to the secretary’s three-page report. Later, he claimed, the deputy speaker summoned the deputy commissioner, and DIG Operations dispatched a large police contingent. He emphasised that no one other than the sergeants-at-arms could undertake any duties on the house’s level.

According to the assembly secretary, the deputy speaker used a megaphone to administer the election process from the Officers’ Box, which was against Assembly Rules and Procedures.

In a comprehensive letter to the governor, the main secretary claimed that the study was one-sided, biassed, and politically motivated. He added that the deputy speaker had announced the result and informed the governor, stating that Hamza Shehbaz Sharif had been elected with 197 votes, constituting an absolute majority of the Punjab Assembly’s total membership.

The deputy speaker’s order of April 16 suspending the assembly secretary with immediate effect and prohibiting his entry on the assembly grounds was also cited by the principal secretary.

Meanwhile, Imran Khan, the former prime minister of Pakistan, tweeted that the procedures in the Punjab Assembly were against the spirit of constitutional provisions and democratic principles. He further asserted that no one had presided over the election of the chief minister because the speaker’s chair was vacant.

In the tweet, he said, “We reject this so-called chief minister election under the guise of mafia.”

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