Stark choices

The struggle for the Punjab has entered a decisive phase

The Lahore High Court took up the matter of the denotification issued by Punjab Governor Balighur Rehman against Chief Minister Ch Pervez Elahi, and while it ordered the status quo to continue, with Ch Pervez again barred from dissolving the Assembly, as PTI chief Imran Khan wants, with the cour adjourning on Saturday. Remarks from the bench indicate that it cannot give Ch Pervez the relief he seems to want: that of remaining in office without any questions being raised about whether or not he enjoys the confidence of the House. The Court, which is committed to the defence of the Constitution, cannot overlook the fact that the entire constitutional scheme assumes that the Executive shall be entrusted to whoever enjoys a majority in the legislature. Ch Pervez contends that there is no calling of a session when the House is already in session, which it is, and which the government shows no sign of adjourning.

All of these technicalities do not sound like someone standing on principle, as Ch Pervez claims he is, but like someone who cannot produce the necessary numbers.

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The PDM also does not seem to have the numbers it needs to win a vote of confidence, and it seems if, as seems possible, the fall of the Pervez ministry precipitates a fresh election, no one would obtain a majority on the first round, which would leave a winner being declared in the second round of whoever wins a simple majority. It might almost seem that it would be better to dissolve and opt for a fresh election. However, there are underlying problems which demand that the province have a firm government, one firmer than it had when the present crisis erupted.

Ch Pervez is not important, as his 2008-2013 tenure showed, but not only does the bureaucracy observe a wait-and-see policy, but he himself is distracted by the fact that he is surviving from day to day. Mr Khan’s wish for a dissolution has not got any support within the party, but has apparently become an end in itself, and is unlikely to lead to a national dissolution even if accompanied by the KP Assembly’s dissolution. As the country has entered on election year anyhow, it seems only appropriate that Mr Khan execute one of his famous U-turns, and let elections take place later in the year, and leave the Punjab to find a CM to govern it in the few months remaining.

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The Editorial Department of Pakistan Today can be contacted at: [email protected]

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