In a tit-for-tat move, Governor Balighur Rehman on Wednesday night termed the ruling of Punjab Assembly Speaker Sibtain Khan disposing of his directives regarding the vote of confidence “unconstitutional”, whereas the coalition government hinted at the imposition of governor’s rule in Pakistan’s biggest province.

The PML-N government initially hinted that governor’s rule could be imposed for two months through a resolution in a joint session of parliament, but the period could be extended to six months.

“Since the chief minister on Wednesday failed to take the trust vote in the Punjab Assembly in compliance with the governor’s order, legally he ceases to hold his office. And now any time… probably on Thursday (today), the governor can issue an order de-notifying the CM,” Interior Minister Rana Sanaullah said earlier in the day.

This view was echoed by SAPM Attaullah Tarrar, who told reporters late on Wednesday night that the governor had discretionary powers to de-notify the CM and it was up to him whether he wanted to do it “tomorrow or the day after”.

Another option, Mr Sanaullah said, is governor’s rule by the Centre. “In the wake of the constitutional crisis, the government may get a resolution passed from the National Assembly and Senate to impose governor’s rule in Punjab for two months initially — the period can be extended to six months as well,” the minister added.

He was of the view that “all was not well” in the camp of Imran Khan’s Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI) Punjab parliamentary party. “Had the PTI been confident that CM Elahi could secure the support of 186 MPAs in the PA he would have gone for the trust vote on Wednesday in compliance with the governor’s order,” he said, adding that the CM could have gone for PA’s dissolution after the vote in line with Imran Khan’s plan for the dissolution of assemblies. “But the PTI chose otherwise because it knew it did not have the required number,” Mr Sanaullah claimed.

GOVERNOR’S ORDER ON SPEAKER’S RULING: In the late evening, Governor Rehman wrote a three-page order in response to PA Speaker Sibtain Khan’s ruling which had termed Mr Rehman’s order seeking vote of confidence from Mr Elahi ‘illegal’.

In his order, the governor said under Article 130(7) of the Constitution that PA speaker’s ruling had no bearing on his order and termed it unconstitutional. The governor said the speaker’s ruling was also in violation of Rule 209 of the Rules of Procedure of the Provincial Assembly of the Punjab, 1997.

“The speaker’s ruling, consequent acts and omissions constitute and result in enabling the chief minister to refrain from obtaining a vote of confidence in terms of Article 130(7). Helping and aiding the CM in refraining from fulfilling his duty and preventing the constitutional process from proceeding to its logical end leads to the consequences stipulated in Rule 22 (7) of the Rules of Procedure of the Provincial Assembly of the Punjab, 1997.”

Meanwhile, taking a screenshot of the governor’s reply, PTI senior leader Fawad Chaudhry, in a tweet, asked Mr Rehman not to make a mockery of his office. “Dear Governor! Do not make a mockery of your office, the speaker’s ruling is final as far affairs of the Assembly are concerned and do not expose yourself to misconduct proceedings. Respect the Constitution,” he added.

Earlier in the day, the governor held a meeting with the PML-N and PPP leaders and legal experts to discuss the strategy of the federal government. Federal ministers Rana Sanaullah and Saad Rafique, premier’s special assistants Attaullah Tarar and Malik Ahmed Khan, and PPP Punjab parliamentary party leader Hasan Murtaza were present in the meeting.

Separately, the federal government on Wednesday decided to deploy Pakistan Rangers and Frontier Constabulary (FC) across Punjab, interior ministry sources said, adding that the federal agencies would ensure law and order in the province and work for implementation of laws and Constitution.

Interior Minister Rana Sanaullah directed the Punjab chief secretary and inspector general of police to maintain law and order, protection of the life and property of the people, and perform their duties as per law and Constitution, sources said.

The interior minister also warned officials not to become part of any process that was against the law and Constitution.

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