A Government without a Chief Executive!

6 Jun

By: Aasef Chauhdry
There is a great chaos and confusion prevailing in the country right now. The country was not over with the espionage threat that was timely trapped, followed by Panama Papers leak that suddenly the prime minister’s sudden heart problem was on the table. As a matter it should have not been a problem or a matter of concern but keeping it secret initially and suddenly disclosing it like a bomb shell made it quite suspicious and it encouraged the gossip, especially when the PM has not nominated any caretaker to run the business affairs in his absence.
On one hand the absence of an acting PM in the office is portraying the situation more like a dictatorial scenario than a democratic affair while on the other hand the prime minister’s illness has stirred up a constitutional debate on who will run the government’s affairs in the absence of Nawaz Sharif who has undergone an open heart surgery a day back and likely to recuperate in a London hospital for at least two weeks. Aware of the brewing debate, the prime minister’s office quickly issued a statement on weekend to preclude rumour mongering and said that Nawaz Sharif has been overseeing the government’s affairs with the assistance of his principal secretary, military secretary and other staff members. In London, he is being kept abreast of the routine matters of the country and his directions are accordingly conveyed to the concerned quarters.
According to the reports till the time he entered the operation theater for an open heart surgery, the prime minister was in constant contact with the federal ministers, cabinet members and other concerned. It was stressed upon through the official press handout that there were no postponements or delays in the matters pertaining to the routine functioning of the state.
On the other hand the issue ignited a debate where law experts are expressing wandering views on the absence of the PM and the vacuum existing due to it. A former chief justice of Pakistan Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhry minced no words in calling for the installation of an interim prime minister until Nawaz Sharif recovers and resumes the office. He bluntly feared that, “What will you do if the prime minister is ill and given anesthesia? Obviously, you need another prime minister. The Constitution doesn’t allow a senior minister to take charge of prime ministerial affairs because this provision unfortunately has been removed in the 8th amendment.”
Contrary to that, a noted lawyer and constitutional expert SM Zafar argued otherwise. He is of the view that there is no provision of bringing in a new prime minister during the absence of the incumbent and to support his point he mentioned Article 90(2) of the Constitution which reads: “In the performance of his functions under the Constitution, the prime minister may act either directly or through the federal ministers.” According to Zafar, Article 90(2) is clear enough to dismiss the demand for a new prime minister.
SM Zafar said that if the prime minister has delegated his authority to Finance Minister Ishaq Dar then there is nothing illegal in it, however, Justice (retd) Chaudhry said that there is nothing personal against Dar, rather it is all about national interest. Dar is a senator and the premier has to be from the National Assembly.
This precarious situation has spelled two drawbacks; one that the government is without a prime minster at the moment and secondly that this constitutional confusion is making fun of Pakistan. The prime minster, before going for the surgery, presided two meetings through Skype; first was the national economic council’s session which was immediately followed by cabinet’s budget meeting. The discussing of most confidential and secret matters like budget recommendations was widely criticised by all walks of life.
Everyone prays for the quick recovery of Nawaz Sharif and sincerely hope his early return to the office, although with current health state he may not be able to work that tirelessly as he has been doing in the past, nevertheless, the country and the government direly need a PM in the chair to directly look after the affairs and not a PM seven seas across, on the bed.

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