Governor Punjab retracts Elahi's de-notification order, LHC told

Punjab Governor Baligh Ur Rehman on Thursday withdrew Chief Minister Chaudhry Pervaiz Elahi's de-notification order upon which the Lahore High Court (LHC) disposed of the petition challenging the governor's order.

Following weeks of political turbulence in Punjab, CM Chaudhry Pervaiz Elahi proved his majority in the provincial assembly, winning the much-hyped vote of confidence amid ruckus and opposition’s boycott in the early hours of Thursday.

The vote of confidence that commenced after midnight concluded with the Pakistan Muslim League-Quaid (PML-Q) and Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) coalition showing majority in the provincial legislature with the support of 186 lawmakers – the minimum number of votes required to win the trust vote.

The vote took place while a five-member larger bench of the LHC, led by Justice Abid Aziz Sheikh was hearing CM Elahi’s plea against the governor’s two orders, including the de-notification of his cabinet.

Read Sana claims Elahi 'not eligible' to call for vote of confidence

With a clear direction that the Punjab CM should not violate the undertaking of not dissolving the provincial assembly, the LHC had sought further arguments by today on Elahi’s plea against the governor’s two orders, including the de-notification of his cabinet.

A larger bench of the LHC, led by Justice Abid Aziz Sheikh heard the case yesterday. As proceedings had commenced, Justice Sheikh had asked Elahi’s counsel Barrister Ali Zafar and the Federation whether they had reached any consensus over the matter of the time frame for the vote of confidence.

Attorney General of Pakistan (AGP) Mansoor Usman Awan had argued that sufficient time had been given for the vote, but the chief minister had failed to obtain it. “If both parties agree on a date, [otherwise] this bench will fix that date for the vote of confidence,” Justice Aziz had remarked.

At that point, Barrister Zafar had argued that they did not agree due to some reasons that establish the illegality of the governor. Justice Aziz had asked whether the barrister understood that the prevailing political circumstances were enough for the vote, wondering whether he would stick to his argument.

Continuing his arguments today, the barrister submitted a copy of last night's vote and said that "we have taken a vote of confidence,186 members [of the provincial assembly] voted in support of the CM".

Read More Sanaullah warns PTI of imposing governor’s rule in Punjab

"We have ended the political crisis," announced Elahi's counsel.

Justice Abid Aziz Sheikh inquired if the Punjab governor had been satisfied, to which his lawyer argued that "the vote of confidence last night did not fulfil the rules and regulations".

The attorney general (AG) went on to argue that the vote records should be made part of the court arguments.

Justice Abid Aziz and justice Asim Hafeez pondered over the possibilities if the governor were to call another vote of confidence but the AG maintained that "this is no longer required after [what unfoldeded] on the assembly floor".

The court noted that the vote of confidence had indeed been taken but remarked that the move had been premature and that "it may well have been the case that we would have declared the governor's notification was not correct".

"The copy you have presented states that you took the vote of confidence according to Article 137," observed Justice Abid Aziz, "this means that you have accepted the governor's order as correct. If the order is declared illegal, then the matter of taking your vote will be null and void".

The high court then went on to say that if "both parties agree, then the court will issue a notification that the vote of confidence that the governor had ordered has been tested".

Upon this, the Punjab governor's advocate stated that there was no need for the court to seek consensus and that the LHC could issue the orders.

Also Read Sanaullah warns PTI of imposing governor’s rule in Punjab

Justice Abid Aziz remarked that it remains to be argued whether the time granted by the governor to hold the vote of confidence was appropriate or not.

“Our question is that if the governor were to issue such an order every week, then what would happen,” said Justice Hafeez. “Where would the issue then stop?” questioned the court.

Justice Abid Aziz further questioned how it would be determined that the grounds behind the governor’s decision to call a vote of confidence were “satisfactory” and whether it is necessary to establish the governor’s confidence in each session of the assembly.

During the proceedings, concerns were raised over the amount of time a governor may allow when calling for a vote of confidence, however, Ali Zafar contended that it would be illegal for the governor to fix the time and remove a chief minister in this manner as this is a matter for the speaker to determine.

Later, Governor Baligh Ur Rehman's lawyer informed the court that he has accepted the vote of confidence and withdrawn his previous order denotifying the CM.

The court observed that two orders had been challenged, one whereby the governor had called for a vote of confidence and the other whereby the CM had been denotified. As both matters were now settled with the governor withdrawing his order, the LHC held that there was no need for intervention by the court. 

Welcoming the development, Justice Abid Aziz remarked that the matter was resolved within the assembly and all matters were settled as per the constitution and the law, and the court disposed of the petition.

Meanwhile, the court set aside a notification by the chief secretary that had suspended the CM and his cabinet. 

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