AS was widely expected, Punjab Governor Muhammad Balighur Rehman exercised his constitutional powers to de-notify Ch Pervaiz Elahi as Chief Minister of the province following his failure to obtain a vote of confidence from the house as directed earlier by the Governor.
This has virtually halted the publicly announced move of the PTI Chairman Imran Khan to dissolve the provincial assemblies of Punjab and the KP where the party is in power as part of his strategy to force the federal government to opt for holding of immediate general elections in the country.
It is now quite obvious that actions and reactions of both sides in Punjab would now be scrutinized by the judiciary and future moves would be linked to the outcome of the legal battle on the issue of power of the Governor to ask the Chief Minister to obtain vote of confidence and defiance of the order by the Chief Minister on the plea that the Governor cannot give him directions in this regard when the house was already in session.
Irrespective of the final interpretation of the relevant constitutional and legal provisions by the courts, the fact remains no one has the magic figure of 186 and the situation demands a fresh round of elections where the candidate securing the simple majority (of the votes cast) would become the Chief Minister.
However, the ruling coalition in the province seems to be in an upbeat mood as Pervaiz Ealhi has rejected the notification issued by the Governor about his de-notification.
As per law, the incumbent CM would continue to perform his duties till assumption of office by his successor and the provincial cabinet stands dissolved.
However, the CM maintains his cabinet is also intact and even tweeted decisions taken by the cabinet in a meeting chaired by him.
This would obviously create legal complications for all actions that are done on this assumption despite the fact that the Chief Secretary has issued a notification that Pervaiz Elahi was no longer Chief Minister of the province and that the provincial cabinet stands dissolved.
PTI has also vowed to take up the matter with President Dr Arif Alvi urging him to remove the provincial governor for his ‘misconduct’.
However, the President is unlikely to become a party in a politically motivated legal and constitutional crisis as his powers about appointment and removal of the provincial governors are linked with the advice of the Prime Minister and therefore, he cannot afford to act independently in this regard.
On the other hand, the coalition partners at the Centre were of the unanimous view that constitutional provisions were clear and nobody could stop the session called by the governor.
The moves and counter-moves notwithstanding, there are clear indications that the Federal Government does not believe in raising the political temperature in the province and wants stability in the largest federating unit.
This is evident from the order issued by the Governor asking Ch Pervaiz Elahi to continue working as Chief Minister and the decision of the federal government not to annoy the CM while making two top bureaucratic appointments in the province.
However, practically the province is once again in the midst of a political and constitutional turmoil and lack of proper attention on governance would add to the problems and difficulties of the people.
No doubt, the threat of dissolution of the two assemblies now stands removed at least for some weeks as legal process in Punjab would take time and no one knows for sure in which direction the things would move ultimately.
Interestingly, taking refuge behind the evolving situation in Punjab, the PTI Chairman has also postponed the decision to dissolve the KP assembly saying first issues in Punjab would be sorted out.
However, there were also reports of serious cracks within the ranks of the provincial PTI on the issue of dissolution.
As no side is gaining in the fluid situation but the main province of the country and national economy are suffering due to political uncertainty, we hope all sides would adopt a saner approach and come to the negotiating table to sort out their differences.
It is better to agree on a date for a general election even if they are to be held on completion of the tenure of present assemblies so that the parties concentrate on electoral issues and campaigning than wasting time, energy and resources on extreme measures with undesirable consequences.