ISLAMABAD: The sudden demise of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Chief Minister Azam Khan on Saturday has triggered a constitutional crisis in the province over the appointment of a new provincial chief executive.
Azam was appointed the acting chief minister in January this year after the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI)-led government dissolved the provincial assembly.
According to Article 224 of the Constitution, the Governor of the province approves the appointment of the acting Chief Minister after the name decided by consensus is put forward by the Leader of the House and the Leader of the Opposition.
Under Article 224-A, if there is no consensus on the name of the acting Chief Minister, the matter is referred to the Provincial Assembly Committee consisting of members from both the opposition and the ruling party.
And if the committee also fails to reach a consensus, the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) chooses the acting Chief Minister from among the names proposed by the government and the opposition.
The Caretaker Cabinet is also appointed on the recommendation of the Caretaker Chief Minister.
Azam’s name for the post of acting CM was unanimously approved by the then chief minister and the leader of the opposition in January this year.
The matter was neither sent to the Assembly Committee nor to the Election Commission.
Legal experts say the Constitution is silent on the question of how a new interim chief executive will be appointed if the incumbent dies or is unable to continue in office for any other reason.
The Constitution clearly states that the acting Prime Minister or Chief Minister is appointed with the consent of the Leader of the House (Prime Minister) and the Leader of the Opposition in the National Assembly. According to the Constitution, the same method is followed in the Provincial Assembly also.
According to the Constitution, in the event of no consensus between the opposition and the government, the appointment of a caretaker chief minister falls entirely under the jurisdiction of the provincial assembly or ECP.
The Senate and the National Assembly have no role in the appointment of the caretaker Chief Minister.
Experts say that the Governor cannot take the responsibility of the acting Chief Minister as he is the representative of the federation and is appointed by the President on the advice of the Prime Minister.
The Governor acts on the advice of the Chief Minister or the provincial cabinet.
Therefore, the KP Governor cannot play the role of acting Chief Minister as the interim Chief Executive is also mandated to assist the ECP in conducting general elections.
Constitutional experts said that with the death of the acting CM, the provincial cabinet has also been dissolved.
Experts said the Constitution is completely silent on the appointment of a caretaker chief minister in the absence of a provincial MLA and the matter is likely to be settled by the Supreme Court.