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Quick Explainer: Punjab Governor appointment

10 May, 2022
<p>A combination of file photos show PA Speaker Chaudhry Pervaiz Elahi (TL), former governor Omar Sarfraz Cheema (TR), PA Deputy Speaker Dost Mazari (BR) and Chief Minister Hamza Shehbaz (BL).</p>

A combination of file photos show PA Speaker Chaudhry Pervaiz Elahi (TL), former governor Omar Sarfraz Cheema (TR), PA Deputy Speaker Dost Mazari (BR) and Chief Minister Hamza Shehbaz (BL).

The story of the Punjab Governor crisis is a little bit of a game of political musical chairs. No one knows when the music will stop and whether derrieres will end up in the right seats.

The Governor is the Centre’s representative (read: federal government) in the provinces. So the Federal government appoints governors.

However, earlier on, President Dr Arif Alvi had rejected Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif’s advice to remove Omar Sarfraz Cheema as Punjab Governor.

Eventually, after Alvi's refusal, however, the Federal government had to remove Omar Sarfraz Cheema as Punjab Governor with immediate effect because of legal rules. Cheema was told not to enter Governor House. To make sure he got the message security was posted outside it on Tuesday.

So Punjab has no Governor. It is a sort of constitutional crisis.

The problem is that the Governor's post cannot be left vacant according to the Constitution of Pakistan. It would be like a power vacuum.

Someone has to be Governor in the transition. Usually the government asks the Speaker of the assembly.

So the Federal government asked Punjab Assembly Speaker Chaudhry Pervaiz Elahi to hold fort. A notification has stated this officially. But Elahi has yet to decide whether he will take charge as Punjab's acting Governor. If he does, he will immediately stop functioning as the Speaker.

If Pervez Elahi stops being Speaker and starts working as acting Governor, someone will have to take his place. This would automatically mean that Deputy Speaker Dost Muhammad Mazari would become the acting Speaker of the Punjab Assembly.

But here is the glitch: If Mazari becomes acting Speaker, he will use his powers to try to get Elahi removed permanently as Speaker. He would do that by pushing through a pending no-confidence motion against Elahi.

Funnily enough, Mazari himself faces a no-confidence vote. Both these votes will be cast through a secret ballot.

This was another problem. In the past weeks, (Governor) Sarfraz Cheema abstained from administering the chief minister's oath to PML-N's Hamza Shehbaz, saying the process of the election was "unconstitutional" and lacking "legal sanctity".

The refusal led to Hamza to file multiple petitions in the Lahore High Court asking for the oath to be administered to him after he was elected chief minister during a Punjab Assembly session where violence broke out.

Almost after a month of political uncertainty in the country's largest populated province, National Assembly Speaker Raja Parvez Ashraf administered the oath of office to Hamza as per the Lahore High Court order on May 1.