Legal and constitutional experts on Friday termed the Punjab government’s move to allow provincial chief minister’s adviser to preside over a special meeting of the cabinet a blatant violation of rules and the Constitution.
According to an official handout, the meeting to review flood protection arrangements was held under Senior Adviser to Punjab Chief Minister Sardar Zulfiqar Khan Khosa at 90-Shahrah Quaid-i-Azam.
Currently, Punjab Chief Minister Shahbaz Sharif is in Britain.
Muhammad Azhar Siddique, a notable lawyer, said that according to Article 130 of the Constitution, only the chief minister could preside over the cabinet meeting. He said that the Constitution defined the provincial cabinet to fall under the chief minister and comprises of designated ministers.
He said that rules of procedure also stated that only the chief minister was authorised to preside over the cabinet meeting. He said that legally, adviser and special assistants were in no way members of the cabinet.
He said that Khosa “is neither a member of the cabinet, nor can he chair a cabinet meeting”.
According to him, there was no clause in the Constitution which defines the slot of a senior adviser in the province nor empowered the chief minster to appoint anyone on the post.
He said that the chief minster had discretionary powers to allow anyone to sit in the cabinet meeting. He said that there was no justification for a senior adviser to preside over the cabinet meeting.
Before 1985, there was a constitutional provision of senior minister who could occasionally preside over the cabinet meeting, but thereafter the slot was abolished, he said. The chief minister is now considered to be the senior minister in the cabinet.
PML-Q’s parliamentary leader in Punjab Assembly Chaudhry Zahiruddin Khan told The Express Tribune that Punjab government was not following any law. He said that Khosa’s action was totally illegal and condemnable, adding that the Punjab government “is following the saying ‘there is no law that can stay in the way of compromise’”.
He said that this was “bad governance and a clear message to the federation that Punjab government is above the law”.
According to official handout, addressing the meeting, Khosa said that the government “will play its role for protecting the life and property of citizens at all cost”.
The meeting was told that all government departments were trying to protect the irrigation network and an effective strategy was being evolved to minimise flood damage, adding that the government had started rehabilitation work in areas hit by floods last year.
The meeting was told that the chief minister had released Rs2 billion to the Punjab Disaster Management Authority last year while Rs10 billion had been provided this year. Moreover, the government is also making efforts for providing additional funds.
Apart from relevant ministers, the provincial chief secretary and senior civilian and military officers also attended the meeting.
Published in The Express Tribune, August 6th, 2011.