In the words of Rosa Luxemberg “Without general elections, without unrestricted freedom of press and assembly, without a free struggle of opinion, life dies out in every public institution, becomes a mere semblance of life, in which only the bureaucracy remains as the active element. Public life gradually falls asleep”. In writing this article I intend to shed some light on the possible, practical difficulties, and legal hitch which might be faced by PTI in the light of the recent announcement made by its chief Mr. Imran Khan regarding dissolving Punjab and the KPK assemblies following the ouster of his government through a Vote of No Confidence motion on the 10th of April 2022 by the ruling coalition.
Dissolution of Assemblies in terms of the erstwhile Article 58 (2) (b) of the Constitution of the Islamic Republic of Pakistan 1973 (since repealed through the 18th Constitutional Amendment Act 2010):
Prior to the 18th Constitutional Amendment Act 2010, the President had the power to dissolve the National Assembly by exercising his powers in terms of Article 58 (2) (b) of the 1973 Constitution. The said power of the President to dissolve the National Assembly was considered and termed to be a ‘menace’ in Pakistan. Previously, democratically elected governments were toppled by the President by exercising powers under Article 58 (2) (b). However; the said power of the President was done away with by virtue of the 18th Constitutional Amendment Act 2010 during the tenure of PPP.
How did it all start or what led to the dissolution of the assemblies?
It all started when on 03.04.2022 under Article 54 (3) of the Constitution of the Islamic Republic of Pakistan 1973 102 MNAs belonging to the ruling elite/Opposition parties submitted a requisition for summoning a meeting of the National Assembly. Alongside the requisition, on 08.03.2022 142 MNAs of the Opposition parties also filed a notice for moving a Resolution of No Confidence against the then PM Mr. Imran Khan in terms of Article 95 of the Constitution of the Islamic Republic of Pakistan 1973 which prescribes the threshold for an RNC to be moved and ultimately passed.
The necessary steps for initiating, moving and voting on an RNC in the National Assembly are provided in the Rules of Procedure and Conduct of Business in the National Assembly, 2007 more particularly, Rule 37 of the said Rules which are para materia to Article 95 of the Constitution. The receipt of this requisition by the Speaker triggered the period of 14 days in which he had to summon the NA. This period expired on 22.03.2022. Nevertheless, the session was called on 25.03.2022 by the NA Secretariat vide notification dated 20.03.2022. However, the voting did not take place on 03.04.2022 and the Deputy Speaker National Assembly Mr. Qasim Khan Suri dismissed the resolution of Vote of No Confidence on the basis of a point of order raised by a Former Federal Minister Mr. Fawad Chaudhry.
Thereafter, the Apex Court had to step in and had to take a Suo Moto notice of the events which had triggered in the National Assembly on 03.04.2022. Thereafter, a Larger Bench of the Apex Court heard the matter and vide its short order dated 07.04.2022 directed that the voting on the No Confidence Motion shall be held on the 10th of April 2022 on Saturday at 10: 00 am and the session shall only be summoned for voting on the No Confidence Motion. On the basis of the short order passed by the Apex Court, the voting on the No Confidence motion took place and as a result of which the then Prime Minister Mr. Imran Khan and his government were ousted/toppled.
Can a Vote of No Confidence motion be moved against the Chief Ministers of Punjab and KPK if the assembly is in session?
According to legal circles, a Vote of No Confidence motion cannot be moved against the Chief Ministers of the province of Punjab and KPK if the assembly is in session as it is at present as per Mr. Sardar Muhammad Latif Khan Khosa Sr. ASC. However, this is also subject to a lot of debate in the legal fraternity.
Can the Chief Ministers of the provinces of Punjab and KPK proceed to dissolve the assemblies if a Vote of No Confidence motion is moved against them?
According to legal circles, the Chief Ministers of the province of Punjab and KPK cannot proceed to dissolve the assemblies if a Vote of No Confidence motion is moved against them provided the assembly is not in session. According to Mr. Irfan Qadir advisor to the Prime Minister and Former Attorney General for Pakistan, the Chief Minister of Punjab cannot proceed to dissolve the Punjab assembly if a Vote of No Confidence is moved against him.
Is the Governor of the province bound to act on the advice of the Chief Ministers of the province?
According to legal circles, as far as the Governor of Punjab is concerned he is not bound to act on the advice of the Chief Minister of Punjab as the Chief Minister of Punjab is a de-facto Chief Minister whereas, the Governor of Punjab is a de-jure Governor in the words of Mr. Irfan Qadir and the Governor can reject the advice of the Chief Minister. The incumbent Chief Minister presently holds his office in light of a questionable judgment of the Apex Court pertaining to the interpretation of Article 63-A.
I would like to conclude by saying that indeed the dissolution of the assemblies is not as simple as it looks. In case, the assemblies do get dissolved this would create another constitutional crisis. May the better sense prevail among our political parties. May Allah help and guide them. Ameen!.
The writer is an advocate high court practicing in Lahore and is a founding partner of Ahmed & Pansota (Advocates & Legal Consultants). He started his career with Cornelius, Lane & Mufti after doing Bar-at-Law from Inns of Court School Law, London, and was called to the bar at Lincolns Inn, London, in the year 2005.
Barrister Pansota also figures as a legal analyst in a weekly talk show called Zanjeer-e-Adal on Capital TV, and appears on other national TV channels. He also writes for various newspapers on current legal issues. He tweets @pansota1.
The views expressed in the article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Global Village Space.