Strange things are happening in Pakistan

Justice Markandey Katju-

Justice Markandey Katju

Justice Markandey Katju is a former Judge, Supreme Court of India, and former Chairman, Press Council of India. The views expressed are his own.

Strange things are happening in Pakistan, and on looking at them one’s eyes boggle like Alice in Wonderland. Consider the following :

(1) The Pakistan Constitution set up a Westminster type system of governance under which the President, like the British monarch, must act on the advice of the Prime Minister, and not on his own discretion.

Thus Article 48 provides: ” In the exercise of his functions the President shall act in accordance with the advice of the Council of Ministers or the Prime Minister “.

The proviso to that Article states that the President can send the matter back to the Prime Minister for reconsideration, but if the advice is reiterated, the President must act in accordance with it. Thus, the President can reject the Prime Minister’s advice only once.

However, Pakistan President Arif Alvi has twice rejected the advice of Prime Minister Shahbaz Sharif to remove the Governor of Punjab Omar Cheema. The question now is who is the Governor of Punjab, Pakistan’s biggest province? The Prime Minister has nominated Baligh ur Rahman as the new Governor, but it is the President, not the Prime Minister, who can appoint a Governor vide Article 101(1) of the Constitution, but President Arif Alvi has not yet done so. Evidently, Arif Alvi is keeping the Prime Minister’s recommendation to appoint Baligh ur Rahman in limbo in his pocket, neither accepting it nor returning it to the Prime Minister for reconsideration.

(2) Under Article 130(3) of Pakistan’s Constitution, the Governor of a province has to give the oath to the Chief Minister. But Hamza Shahbaz was given an oath as Chief Minister of Punjab by the Speaker of the National Assembly, not the Governor. How can that be done when Article 130(3) is very clear that only the Governor can give an oath?

Evidently, it was the Lahore High Court that authorized the Speaker of the National Assembly to give the oath, but how can the High Court do so? How can it violate Article 130(3) ? Is the Lahore High Court an Emperor who can do anything he pleases? Can Hamza Shahbaz be validly said to be the Chief Minister of Punjab ( though he has started functioning as one ) when he has not been given an oath by the Governor?

(3) Article 105 of the Constitution is similar to Article 48, and it requires the Governor of a Province to act on the advice of the Chief Minister. He can return advice once for reconsideration, but if it is reiterated, he must accept it. Evidently, the Governor of Punjab Cheema does not seem to agree to this. Both he and the President appear to be acting more as lackeys of former Prime Minister Imran Khan, rather than as Constitutional functionaries.

(4) In the meantime, Imran Khan is continuing his hysterical antics of holding ‘jalsas’ and shouting from the rooftops that he was removed from office by a foreign power and a conspiracy.

Pakistan seems to have become a Mad Hatter’s party, and one wonders where all this will end.