AFTER what happened on 03 March and afterwards at the Centre, constitutional, legal and democratic processes are openly being thrown into the dustbin in the country’s largest Province, sending the unfortunate impression that the country has been pushed into a constitutional void and lawless jungle.
Election of new Leader of the House in the Punjab Assembly became a necessity after the Government itself sought resignation of its own Chief Minister (Usman Buzdar), which was accepted by the Governor and session of the Provincial Assembly was convened to elect the new CM but the entire process was bulldozed when it became crystal clear that the candidate of the opposition (Hamza Shahbaz) was leading the game of numbers.
That the constitutional process was being obstructed in the province was also brought to the notice of the Supreme Court on Wednesday but it ignored pleas for intervention citing urgency to decide the case relating to unconstitutional ruling of the Speaker/Deputy Speaker of the National Assembly, the case, which too was not wrapped up on the day despite indications dropped for the purpose.
Everyone knows the PA was to elect the leader of the house on March 3 but the session was abruptly adjourned for 06 March on the plea of physical brawls between the treasury and the opposition benches but independent observers were convinced that this was done to allow Ch Pervez Elahi to try to muster required support to become the Chief Minister, which became a difficult proposition due to resurgence of several groups within the ruling PTI in the province.
Prime Minister Imran Khan also visited the provincial capital and invited members of the allied parties to a dinner but the attendance once again confirmed that Elahi would not have a smooth sailing and as a consequence the session was adjourned for March 16 claiming that repair of the damaged furniture of the assembly hall would take time.
However, on the same day, Advocate General Punjab held out an assurance that the session would be held on March 6 and election held as per Constitution and rules, Based on the commitment given to the apex court, Deputy Speaker Dost Muhammad Mazari convened the session for March 6, which also confirmed that ‘repair of the damaged furniture’ was just a stunt.
Sensing that the situation was getting out of control of the treasury benches, the Government deposited a motion of no-confidence against its own Deputy Speaker but the opposition, which also announced to file no-confidence resolution against Speaker Pervez Elahi, was denied the opportunity to do so in scant respect for rules and laws, sending clear signals that the assembly staff too has become a party to the political and constitutional conflict.
The opposition was forced to hold a symbolic session of the provincial assembly at a local hotel where Hamza bagged 199 votes to become a symbolic CM.
All this clearly showed who commands majority and who is seeking refuge behind unconstitutional and undemocratic practices.
There is no doubt that Ch Pervez Elahi is a seasoned politician and proved to be one of the best Chief Ministers of the province but it is a question of who commands the majority.
All sides should respect the Constitution, law and rules and regulations and let the process be completed in a free and fair manner.
The tactics like suspension of members belonging to PML(N)/dissident groups or imposition of Governor’s rule would not help resolve the crisis but push the province further into chaos.
As for the Centre, the opposition, which initially pinned its hopes on the apex court, is getting frustrated because of the time being taken in deciding an open and shut case, the haste demonstrated by the government in completing the process for establishment of a caretaker set-up without an input from the opposition and tarnishing of its image due to propaganda that the NSC contributed to the viewpoint of the government about foreign conspiracy theory.
This is evident from the call issued to the nation to observe Friday as ‘Constitution Day’, a demand from the NSC members to inform the nation of facts and adoption of a resolution by the Sindh Assembly against the ruling of the NA Deputy Speaker.
In a related development, more than 100 prominent persons representing different walks of life have demanded of the Supreme Court not to entertain the so-called ‘doctrine of necessity’ in deciding the case as it is a question of blatant attack on the Constitution and rule of law.
We are standing at the crossroads and the verdict of the apex court would determine in which direction the country would go.