Hamza Shahbaz: CM of Punjab or Faletti’s?

Image Source: The News International, the opposition elects Hamza Shahbaz as new CM Punjab, April 06, 2022. 

After the resignation of the incumbent Chief Minister, Usman Buzdar, on 28 March, 2022, a notification was passed by the Punjab Assembly on the 3rd of April, convening a session for the election of the next Punjab Chief Minister. However, the session was deferred to the 16th of April, by the Deputy Speaker of the Punjab Assembly. This was done after the motion of no-confidence against incumbent PM Imran Khan was dismissed by an illegal[1] ruling of the Deputy Speaker of the National Assembly. On the 6th of April, 2022 the PTI government deployed policemen and sealed the Punjab Assembly as policemen patrolled the House and blocked its entrance. The opposition protested against the government’s actions and held a sit-in outside the Punjab Assembly.

In response to this action by the Provincial Government, the united opposition in the province on the same day conducted a Punjab Assembly session in a private hotel with the sole agenda of appointing the next Chief Minister of Punjab. The session concluded with 199 votes casted in favour of Mr. Hamza Shahbaz for his alleged appointment to the office of Chief Minister Punjab. As part of a series to help understand the current political and legal situation in Pakistan, this blog will explore why such an appointment was made, and whether such an appointment was even valid.

Some interesting facts to be taken into account are that (1) there was confusion concerning the date of the session, (2) that the session was conducted outside the Punjab Assembly and (2) no official notification convening the session was issued, (3) that neither the Speaker nor the Deputy Speaker presided over the session, and (4) that no official notification concerning the appointment of Mr. Hamza Shahbaz was issued by the Punjab Assembly Secretariat.

Confusion concerning the date of the session:

As mentioned above, the Punjab Assembly session was initially supposed to take place on the 6th of April. After the illegal conduct of the Deputy Speaker National Assembly, the session was deferred to the 16th of April. Although, the official reasoning cited for the deferral was the ongoing repair and construction of the main hall. 

Events took a further turn when the Deputy Speaker stood outside the Provincial Assembly and stated, and issued a notification, that he was willing to conduct the session on the same day, the 6th of April[2]. This was because a direction had been given by the Supreme Court on 5th April to do the same. Interestingly, later on, the Provincial Assembly Speaker denied the notification and declared it a forgery.

PTI lawmakers disapproved of the Punjab Assembly Deputy Speaker’s decision and consequently, filed a motion of no-trust/no-confidence against the Deputy Speaker.  The Speaker of the Provincial Assembly, in his statement, mentioned that the motion against the Deputy Speaker essentially restrained the Deputy Speaker from presiding over the electoral session. Another notification on the 6th of April, this time by the Speaker, revoked the powers delegated to the Deputy Speaker, essentially stripping him of his powers to preside over the session for the election of the Chief Minister.

Was it legal to conduct the session outside the Punjab Assembly?

Amidst all this confusion and the Assembly being sealed, the opposition conducted its own session in Faletti’s Hotel on the 6th of April. According to Article 54(3) of the Constitution read with Article 127, the Speaker or Deputy Speaker can summon the Assembly to meet at such time and place as they think fit. Technically, this means that the session can happen at any such place deemed fit.

However, irrespective of the Deputy Speaker claiming that he was willing to conduct the session on 6th April and an official notification being issued; nothing in the notification stated that Faletti’s Hotel was the selected location. Article 3 of the Rules of Procedure of the Provincial Assembly of the Punjab, 1997 clearly states that the Secretary should publish a notification of the date, time and place of the session in the Gazette and announce the session over the radio, television and through the press when the period between the notification and the session is less than ten days. Clearly, no such official notification was published or announcements made through any of the mediums mentioned.

The Deputy Speaker himself stood outside the Punjab Assembly and was absent from the session conducted by the opposition in Punjab. Clearly, the initial notification convening a session on 6th April, issued by the Deputy Speaker, referred to a session that was to be held outside the Punjab Assembly which never took place. This depicts that the session conducted in the hotel was neither summoned by the Deputy Speaker nor the Speaker, who considered 16th April as the ‘fit’ time to convene the session.   

Was it legal to conduct the session without the Deputy Speaker of the Punjab Assembly present? 

In the absence of the Speaker and the Deputy Speaker, Ms Shazia Abid presided over the alleged Punjab Assembly session conducted in Faletti’s hotel.   PPP MPA, Ms Shazia Abid, is a member of the Panel of Chairmen of the Punjab Assembly. According to Rule 13 of the Procedural Rules, the Panel of Chairmen consists of 4 Provincial Assembly members, selected by the Speaker, to exercise the powers of the Speaker; in the absence of the Speaker and the Deputy Speaker. Rule 13 gives precedence to a member of the Panel of Chairmen to take the chair of the Speaker over other members of the Assembly. This gives Ms Shazia Abid, or any other member of the Panel of Chairmen, authority to preside over a session and exercise the powers of the Speaker. 

Now, the question arises that what were the reasons for the absence of the Speaker and Deputy Speaker. Clearly, the Speaker, Mr Perviz Elahi, being nominated as a candidate for the position of Chief Minister by the PTI government could not preside over a session deciding the Chief Minister’s election. Then the chair should have been occupied by the Deputy Speaker in the absence of the Speaker.

Thus, the opposition gave precedence to Ms Shazia Abid over the actual Deputy Speaker. The aforementioned no-confidence motion under Rule 12 (4) of the Procedural Rules only restricted the Deputy Speaker from presiding over the very session where the resolution of his removal was to be passed. He maintained his power as the Deputy Speaker in all other sessions of the Assembly. The agenda of the session on the 6th of April was the election of the next Chief Minister and not the removal of the Deputy Speaker from his position. Then clearly, the Deputy Speaker should have been given precedence, over all other members, to preside over an Assembly session.  

Secondly, it is questionable if the notification revoking the powers of the Deputy Speaker was a valid exercise of discretion under Rule 235 of the Assembly Procedural Rules. Rules 235 gives the Speaker the discretion to rule and decide on any matters that are not specifically mentioned in the Procedural Rules. This problematic situation can only be resolved by the Lahore High Court. [3]

Is Hamza Shahbaz the Chief Minister of Punjab?

Even if Ms Shazia Abid did have the authority to preside over the session officially the Punjab Assembly Secretariat should have issued a notification for it, as prescribed under the rules and procedures of the Assembly. Whereas no such notification was issued by the Punjab Assembly Secretariat. Similarly, the usual procedure for the appointment of the Chief Minister required notification of his election to be issued by the Punjab Assembly Secretariat. After the so-called election at Faletti’s, the Secretariat did not issue a notification declaring the election of Mr Hamza Shahbaz.

More than 200 lawmakers were present in the session that happened in the hotel. This allows the quorum for a sitting assembly to be attained according to Article 5 of the Rules of Procedure- which in this case is 92 out of a total number of 371 members. Even though the candidate secured 199 votes, which is the majority needed to be declared the Chief Minister according to Rule 20 of the Rules of Procedure, there are many procedural issues that cannot make this election legally valid.

Lahore High Court’s Decision:

Initially, Mr. Hamza Shahbaz, as the opposition leader of the Assembly, submitted a plea in the LHC to seek its help to hold the election for the CM against the Punjab Assembly Speaker, Deputy Speaker, and IG police. He claimed that they were not performing their duties in line with the law. He added that they were violating Article 130 (3) of the Constitution of Pakistan which prohibits the delay of the CM election by adjourning the election session and barring the members from entering the PA premises to attend sessions.

On the 11th of April, Lahore High Court’s Honorable Justice Amir Bhatti decided on the matter and ordered the Speaker, Deputy Speaker, and the Opposition Leader (Mr Hamza Shahbaz) to mutually decide the date for the election of the next Punjab Chief Minister. This indicates, as accepted by the counsel for PML-N, that the session held on the 6th of April was merely symbolic and does not amount to the election of Mr Hamza Shahbaz as the Punjab Chief Minister.

[1] The ruling was declared unconstitutional, illegal and void by the Supreme Court in Suo Motu Case No. 1 of 2022 on April 3, 2022.

[2] Umar Farooq, “Punjab Assembly session to elect CM will be held today: Deputy Speaker”( Dawn, April 6th, 2022)

[3] The Newspaper’s Staff Reporter, “Notices to PA speaker, secretary on pleas against not convening” (Dawn, April 02, 2022) 


Mahbano Kazmi, Research Assistant, RCIL & HR (mahbanokazmi@gmail.com)

Leila-Maria Faddoul, Research Assistant, RCIL & HR (leilamaria.faddoul@gmail.com

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