Caving in to mounting calls for the imposition of governor’s rule in Balochistan, the federal government declared a state of emergency in the province late Sunday night.
“After hours-long consultations with coalition partners and provincial government officials, we have decided to invoke Article 234 of the Constitution,” the prime minister told leaders of the Hazara community at the Punjabi Immambargh. “From Monday morning, governor’s rule will be imposed in the province,” he said.
He also said that the provincial government led by Nawab Aslam Raisani would be removed and Governor Nawab Zulfiqar Magsi would be the chief executive of the province.
Hundreds of Hazara community members have been holding vigils at the site of Thursday’s twin bombings beside the shrouded bodies for three days in row, demanding that the army take control of Quetta.
Premier Ashraf also directed the provincial police chief and head of the paramilitary Frontier Corps to restore law and order in the province and take action against groups involved in targeted killings and sectarian violence.
He called Thursday’s bombings an “inhuman act” and said that the top leadership of the Pakistan Peoples Party, along with the entire nation, shared the grief of the Hazara community.
In the wake of the premier’s announcement, members of the Hazara community agreed to end their sit-in and bury their dead. Ashraf was accompanied by Information Minister Qamar Zaman Kaira and Balochistan Governor Nawab Zulfiqar Magsi.
The powers of the provincial government will now be transferred to the National Assembly in the absence of a provincial legislature for necessary legislation. The governor with a small cabinet will govern the province under the emergency rule till fresh elections are held.
Responding to a question, the premier said the FC has been given power of police to investigate. “FC officers are from the army and army officers would command it. If you have any doubts, you can contact the governor, he added.
Earlier, briefing the PM, Hazara community leader Qayyum Changezai said that Hazaras have been executed for the last two decades and now these killings should stop.
He said Raisani and his cabinet were responsible for the killings of Hazara community and several attacks on Shia community were carried out in Mastung district which was hometown of Raisani. Earlier the prime minister had a marathon session with top government officials at the Governor House in Quetta. He also called up leaders of coalition parties – including PMLQ, MMA and ANP – to build a consensus on available options.
The head of the PML-Q, which has 19 legislators in the provincial legislature, agreed that Chief Minister Raisani should step down and the army called out in the province. “Democratic or undemocratic, the army should take control of Balochistan,” he added.
President of the ANP, which has four seats in the provincial assembly, also agreed with the imposition of governor’s rule. Asfandyar Wali told Premier Ashraf that governor’s rule is the only option to be pursued as the provincial government has failed to stem the tide of violence and stop the unabated killings of Hazara community people.
However, two key coalition partners – the Maulana Fazlur Rehman-led Muttahida Majles-e-Amal (MMA) and Balochistan National Party-Awami (BNP-A) – opposed to the option calling it “unconstitutional”. Both parties have respectively nine and seven seats in the provincial assembly.
“Such unconstitutional steps will set a precedent in other provinces and even at the centre, which should be avoided,” Maulana Fazlur Rehman told a news channel on Sunday. Instead he advised the government to consider constitutional options, including change of the government.
Balochistan Assembly’s acting speaker, Mattiullah Agha, who belongs to the MMA, told The Express Tribune that the coalition partners advised the prime minister against the imposition of governor’s rule in the province. “Major parties in the coalition, MMA and BNP-A, instead suggested an in-house change in the government,” he added.
He claimed that PPP’s provincial leadership, led by its deputy parliamentary leader Ali Muhammad Jattak, also backed the suggestion.
The parliamentary party leaders of coalition parties wanted to oppose the possible imposition of governor’s rule at a news conference. However, they were stopped from holding the press conference by the federal government, official sources said. The federal government told them that their opposition to governor’s rule would be counter-productive.
MQM supports governor’s rule
Premier Ashraf also telephoned Muttahida Qaumi Movement chief Altaf Hussain to seek his input. Altaf told the prime minister that since the Balochistan government has failed to control the law and order situation, governor’s rule should be declared in the province.
A day earlier, the MQM chief endorsed the demand of the Hazara community that the army should take control of Quetta.
Pressure from within
Earlier Sunday, Nadeem Afzal Chan, the chairman of the Public Accounts Committee, joined the chorus demanding imposition of governor’s rule. he should be removed. I have written a letter to the president [for this purpose],” Chan told The Express Tribune. “The situation is very serious. Go
“The chief minister should resign. If he doesn’t, vernor’s rule should be imposed,” he added.
Separately, four key aides of Premier Ashraf – Federal Minister Sheikh Viquas Akram, Adviser to Prime Minister Mustafa Nawaz Khokhar, and Special Assistants to Prime Minister Ahmad Yar Hiraj and Chaudhry Fawad Hussain – also wrote a letter to President Asif Ali Zardari to express concern over the Balochistan situation.
Thursday’s bombings have proved that the government has failed its constitutional duty of protecting the life and property of its citizens. “[Therefore], we request your Excellency to issue direction to the chief minister Balochistan to immediately submit his resignation and inspector general of police and inspector general of Frontier Corps be relieved from their duties forthwith,” read the letter, a copy of which is available with The Express Tribune.
President approves summary
President Asif Ali zardari has signed the summary to impose Governor’s rule in Balochistan, after being advised by the prime minister.
PM had sent the summary, asking the president to invoke Article 234 of the Constitution.
Under the law, Governor’s rule will stay in place for 60 days.
What is Article 234?
Article 234 of the Constitution is the power to issue a proclamation in case of failure of the constitutional machinery of a province.
The Article states that if the president, on receipt of a report from the governor of a particular province, is satisfied that a situation has arisen in which the provincial government cannot carry out its work in accordance with the law and provisions of the Constitution, then the president may, or if a resolution on this behalf, is passed by each house separately, by proclamation the president can
(a) assume to himself, or direct the governor of the province to assume on behalf of the president, all or any of the functions of the government of the province, and all or any of the powers vested in, or exercisable by, anybody or authority in the province, other than the provincial assembly;
(b) declare that the powers of the provincial assembly shall be exercisable by, or under the authority of, 2[Majlis-e-Shoora (parliament)]; and
(c) make such incidental and consequential provisions as appear to the president to be necessary or desirable for giving effect to the objects of the proclamation, including provisions for suspending in whole or in part the operation of any provisions of the Constitution relating to any body or authority in the province.
Provided that nothing in this Article shall authorise the President to assume to himself, or direct the Governor of the Province to assume on his behalf, any of the powers vested in, or exercisable by, a High Court, or to suspend either in whole or in part the operation of any provisions of the Constitution relating to High Courts.
Published in The Express Tribune, January 14th, 2013.