PML supporters
Supporters of the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) react as they protest against Prime Minister Imran Khan, outside the parliament building in Islamabad, Pakistan April 9, 2022. Image Credit: Reuters

Islamabad: The race for a new chief minister of Punjab has taken a new turn as a number of senior officials of provincial bureaucracy and police have declined to be appointed as Punjab’s Chief Secretary and Inspector General of Police (IGP) after Prime Minister Imran Khan removed the existing officers a night earlier.

The prime minister removed Punjab’s Chief Secretary Kamran Ali Afzal and IGP Rao Sardar Ali Khan on the recommendations of the ruling coalition’s candidate and Speaker of the Punjab Assembly Chaudhry Pervaiz Elahi.

The officers had reportedly refused to round up the ruling Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) dissident Members of the Provincial Assembly (MPAs) and stop them from voting for opposition candidate Hamza Shahbaz Sharif.

Father-son duo face strong resistance

Hamza Shahbaz Sharif is son of the Opposition Leader in the National Assembly Shahbaz Sharif and both the father-son duo are facing intense resistance from PM Khan in becoming new heads of the federal and provincial governments.

PM assures Pervaiz support for Punjab’s top slot

Prime Minister Imran Khan ordered their removal Friday evening as he had assured Pervaiz Elahi of all possible help needed ahead of his election as chief minister during his recent visit to Lahore.

Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) leader Hamza Shahbaz on Saturday moved a petition in the Lahore High Court (LHC) against the “unlawful” removal of Punjab Chief Secretary and IGP.

LHC Chief Justice Amir Bhatti has taken up the petition and will hear it on April 11. On the same date, the same court will also hear the petition filed against Punjab Assembly Secretary as well as Speaker for delaying the Punjab Assembly’s session for election of the new chief minister of the Punjab.

The provincial assembly has to elect the new leader of the house after Usman Buzdar resigned last month.

Chaudhry Pervaiz Elahi who is also senior leader of the Pakistan Muslim League-Quaid (PML-Q), an ally of the PTI, and PML-N’s Hamza, who has secured the support of PTI’s dissident lawmakers — the Jahangir Khan Tarin and Aleem Khan groups — are in the race to become the chief minister of the province.

Punjab without chief minister since April 1

In the petition, Hamza Shahbaz’s counsel submitted that Buzdar’s resignation was accepted on April 1 and, since then, the powers he assumed are that of the caretaker chief minister.

“The postings and transfers of the officers such as Chief Secretary and Inspector General of Police of the province can only be made in consultation with the provincial government.

“It is also an admitted position that the provincial cabinet does not exist, therefore, essentially no provincial government exists. Hence such appointments/postings/transfers are without lawful authority,” the petitioner has argued.