Salmaan Taseer: The case of the missing governor
Sound the alarms! Inform the Army! The governor is missing…again! Armed with his designer sunglasses and iPad, Governor Punjab Salmaan Taseer managed to slip from under the provincial government's radar for the second time in a row. Television channels ran tickers on the governor's absence today, while the governor tweeted that he hadn't gone anywhere (not to mention taking out the time to slam the Punjab government and a certain media group for the hype around his alleged ‘exit’).
Known for his outrageous comments and responses to political opponents, Mr Taseer never fails to surprise us. From defending minorities in Pakistan to annoying fellow politicians on Twitter (read Marvi Memon), Mr Taseer's latest escapade has kept us all entertained, to say the least.
The Punjab Assembly woke up to the governor's absence after 72 hours, when media reports alerted the speaker. The 18th amendment made way for the speaker of the provincial assembly to take charge if and when the governor is not able to perform his/her duty.
34. Substitution of Article 104 of the Constitution.— In the Constitution, for Article 104, the following shall be substituted namely:—
“104. Speaker Provincial Assembly to act as, or perform functions of Governor in his absence.- When the Governor, by reason of absence from Pakistan or for any other cause, is unable to perform his functions, the Speaker of the Provincial Assembly and in his absence any other person as the President may nominate shall perform the functions of Governor until the Governor returns to Pakistan or, as the case may be, resumes his functions.”.
When Rana Sanaullah woke up to the absence, he announced that the governor had fled to Dubai without informing the cabinet secretary and the speaker (who would be acting governor). Another news report ran that the spokesperson for the governor house had said that Taseer was in Sukkur.
The News ran a report stating that Salmaan Taseer had met (or rather ran into) a senior correspondent of Daily Jang on a Karachi-Colombo flight. Taseer had declared that he was on his way to Sri Lanka to follow up on President Asif Ali Zardari’s recent trip. When the Sri Lankan High Commissioner was asked about this, he said he was not aware of the visit, as Salmaan Taseer had not applied for a visa.
“If the governor has gone to Sri Lanka, he must have travelled on a private passport. Otherwise on official or diplomatic passport he is required to obtain visa from the High Commission before embarking on the journey. At least I am not aware of his visit to Sri Lanka last week” - Sri Lankan High Commissioner Air Chief Marshal (R) Jayalath Weerakkody.
The governor of course, announced on Twitter that he was hanging out with (imaginary) friends:
@SalmaanTaseer According 2 The News. UAE Ambsdr & Sri Lanka HC denied my prescence However Ambsdr of Narnia has officially admitted I was there! (sic)
Inside sources reveal the governor was busy raising an army with Aslan to help save Punjab. Meanwhile, as to Rana Sanaullah and the media groups clamoring to know where the governor was, he had this to say:
@SalmaanTaseer I don't have to answer any joker where I am (sic)
@SalmaanTaseer GEO has gone mad again! I'm here. Going no where Their credibility is zero (sic)
To add to the drama, another report stated that the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) had confirmed the trip and released the relevant documents.
In all this drama, there is of course a serious issue to be raised. The absence of the governor without handing over charge to the speaker meant that the province was without a constitutional head, and it also renders the assembly speaker ineligible to preside over the session. If we accept that the governor has travelled to Sri Lanka, on a private passport, as a representative of the federation and without informing his successor, a clear violation of the constitution has taken place.
Since there is talk of proof and a violation, will the Governor of Punjab perhaps set an example for current and future generations of politicians and leaders in the country? Will he be moral enough to resign if the reports are true? Or should we buy into his claims of a rabid Punjab Government using under-handed means to topple him from his throne? Whatever the case may be, Taseer is sure to continue ‘saving’ Punjab - even if it has to be one tweet at a time.
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