ISLAMABAD: President Arif Alvi on Saturday conveyed to Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif to reconsider his advice to appoint a new governor of Pakistan’s most populous Punjab province, saying Omar Sarfraz Cheema “still holds the office of the governor and there is no occasion to propose a new appointment,” the president’s office said.
Cheema, a member of ex-PM Imran Khan’s Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) party, was appointed Punjab governor last month amid a no-confidence motion filed against Khan in parliament, which saw many of his allies, including then governor Chaudhry Mohammad Sarwar, jumping ship and joining the opposition. Khan was subsequently ousted from office in the no-trust vote and Sharif appointed the new PM by parliament.
In early May, the Sharif-led government sent a summary to the president, also a close Khan aide, to remove Cheema, nominating a senior ruling party leader Baligh-ur-Rehman as his replacement.
President Alvi had on May 9 rejected the summary of the prime minister, but Cheema was removed from the post the same day, with a Cabinet Division notification stating he had ceased to hold the office on the advice of PM Sharif sent to the president on two occasions.
“Referring to President’s Secretariat’s earlier communication, dated May 09, 2022, the President reiterated that ‘the Governor shall hold office during the pleasure of the President,’ as envisaged by Article 101 (2) of the Constitution,” a statement from the president’s office said.
“He added that the present circumstances demanded that the incumbent Governor should continue to hold that position.”
A governor in Pakistan is the appointed head of state of a province. He or she is appointed by the president on the advice of the prime minister and can serve for a tenure that lasts up to five years.
The president made a reference to the Punjab governor’s letter, dated April 23, and a May 4 report, which highlighted that the change in loyalties of the members of the Punjab Assembly during the election of the Punjab chief minister and cobbling of the majority by “illegal means had generated serious governance issues in the province as well as violated the Article 63-A of the Constitution.”
President Alvi said the principled stance of the governor had been vindicated by the Supreme Court of Pakistan. The top court on May 17 ruled that dissident lawmakers of a party could not cast their vote as it interpreted Article 63-A of the constitution, which relates to the disqualification of parliamentarians for voting, or abstaining from voting, against the party guidelines.
President Alvi said the stance of Governor Cheema was further augmented by the Election Commission of Pakistan’s (ECP) decision, declaring the defection of 25 provincial lawmakers in the election of chief minister as the “worst form of betraying the electorate and party’s policy.”
The ECP on Friday de-seated 25 dissident legislators belonging to Khan’s party, who had defected and voted for opposition candidate Hamza Shehbaz in the election for the Punjab chief minister’s slot last month.
With these 25 lawmakers no longer members of the House, Shehbaz, who won the April 16 election for the chief minister, has lost his majority in the Punjab Assembly, raising questions about the status of his government.
“In view of the above-mentioned facts, the president asked the prime minister to reconsider his advice with regard to the appointment of a new Governor Punjab in accordance with Article 48 (1) of the Constitution,” the statement from the president’s office added.