The deadline to dissolve the Punjab and Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa assemblies set by PTI Chairman Imran Khan expired on Friday without causing any change in the status quo.
The constitutional crisis spawned by the tit-for-tat moves by the Punjab governor and the provincial assembly speaker to outmanoeuvre each other was somewhat subdued after the LHC restored Pervaiz Elahi’s government and his cabinet.
The scenario has created a win-win situation for all the visible and not-so-visible stakeholders involved in the unfolding of the high-stake game – the PTI-PML-Q tango and the PML-N.
Political pundits have described the LHC interim relief as a face-saving for the main players — the PTI is content that the government had obstructed its goal of forcing early polls while the PML-N heaved a sigh of relief seeing the assemblies are intact – at least for the foreseeable future.
Contrary to widespread speculation, Governor Balighur Rehman, who belongs to the PML-N, did follow through on his threat of de-notifying the chief minister on the issue of a vote of confidence as the PTI and its political ally PML-Q dug their heels in disregarding the talk of governor’s rule in the province.
'Opportunity to review plans'
“Court order has provided an opportunity to all sides to review their political agendas,” Professor Emeritus Dr Hassan Askari said, saying it was a positive aspect of the ongoing political situation.
The eminent scholar noted that the court’s ruling turned out to be good for Punjab CM Pervaiz Elahi as he continues to remain as the province’s head.
Noting that the assembly was saved from being dissolution for now, Askari, however, said that PML-N’s plan to elect new chief minister of the province couldn’t be completed.
He observed that the court ruling has established that the governor couldn’t remove a sitting CM and PML-N couldn’t fulfill its dream of installing a new CM, which was “embarrassing” for it.
Nevertheless, he said, the court ruling has halted all plans of all the parties for the time being and provided an opportunity to review plans.
Announcing his much-awaited final date to dissolve the two provincial assemblies where his party is at the helm of affairs, the former prime minister on Dec 17 revealed that the party would dissolve the Punjab and K-P assemblies on Dec 23 (Friday), staking his hard-earned political ground on a bid to trigger early elections.
Sensing the shifting sands of political fortunes in Punjab, Chief Minister Mahmood Khan had also retracted saying, “Imran Khan will first decide the future of the Punjab Assembly.”
Punjab descended into turmoil after a delegation of the Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) and the PML-N lawmakers submitted a no-confidence motion against CM Elahi in a bid to forestall the dissolution of the provincial assembly.
Moreover, the resolution was immediately followed by an order from Governor Rehman, directing the chief minister to seek a vote of confidence from the assembly on December 21 in a bid to deal a blow to the PTI’s plans of disbanding the legislature on Friday.
As the night descended in the federal capital on Thursday, it was assumed that the government had held itself back on de-notifying Punjab Chief Minister Pervaiz Elahi and imposing the governor’s rule in the province as its incessant consultations on the ongoing political tug-of-war yielded only one word for now: ‘restrain’.
The hesitation from the government side, especially after Interior Minister Rana Sanaullah’s tall claims that Elahi was no longer the Punjab chief minister and de-notification was imminent, had come when the ruling alliance weighed the pros and cons of removing the provincial chief executive.
Sanaullah’s talk followed the failure of the chief minister in getting a vote of confidence from the Punjab Assembly on an order of Governor Balighur Rehman. Elahi skipped the vote because of a ruling of Punjab Assembly Speaker Sibtain Khan, who declared that the governor’s order was “unconstitutional”.
A key member of the federal cabinet shared that the PTI wanted to maintain the chaotic atmosphere, as the party made the announcement about the dissolution of the assemblies some four weeks ago but the provincial chief ministers didn’t ask the governors in their respective provinces to dissolve the assembly when there was no hurdle in doing so.
He said that dissolution of the assemblies could have been achieved if the intention was to do so as the government side had only intervened a few days ago, saying that the purpose, it seemed, was to deepen the crisis in the country. He indicated that the matter would be delayed further if any party moved the court.
On December 19, Governor Balighur Rehman had directed Punjab chief minister to seek a vote of confidence on December 21. However, Speaker Sibtain Khan said that the governor’s letter, asking the chief minister to seek a vote of confidence was against the assembly rules, as well as the Constitution.
The province descended into further turmoil on Wednesday as Governor Rehman rejected the ruling of Speaker Sibtain. Since then, both sides are issuing statements after statements that have so far been landing at no man’s land.