Khosa, Shahbaz on collision course over BZU VC appointment

LAHORE: In what appears to be a serious constitutional battle brewing up between two constitutional heads of the province, Punjab Governor Sardar Latif Khosa Tuesday rejected Punjab Chief Minister’s summary for the second time on appointment of Vice-Chancellor of Bahaudddin Zakariya University (BZU).The governor has appointed Dr Muhammad Zafarullah as BZU VC for the second time, while the chief minister had recommended name of Dr Syed Khawaja Alqama, currently working as Pakistan’s ambassador in Yemen. This may lead to a serious constitutional crisis, and it is highly likely that the matter would be decided by the court.

Section 14 (1) of Act 1975 of Multan’s Bahauddin Zakariya University stipulates that, “The VC shall be appointed by the chancellor on such terms and conditions as the chancellor may determine and shall hold office during the pleasure of the chancellor for a term not exceeding four years”.The chief minister, on the other hand, is claiming power to appoint VCs under Article 105 of the Constitution which says that governor will act on CM’s advice.The governor, however, is of the opinion that Article 105 of the Constitution is only attracted when a matter relates to business mentioned in Articles 129, 130, 131, and 139 of the Constitution and not in case of appointments of vice-chancellors.

“It is for this reason that Article 105 starts with, ‘subject to the Constitution’, instead of ‘subject to Constitution and Law’. Thus, the statutory functions of the governor exercising powers of the chancellor stand expressly excluded from the scope of Article 105 of the Constitution”, noted the governor while rejecting CM’s nominee.Khosa further noted that “No constitutional entity has been conferred with unbridled powers in the entire scheme of the Constitution.

If the matter/controversy is stretched to encompass Article 105, then the Cabinet or any minister can advise the governor in such matters. If it is stretched accordingly, the same would create a complete chaos. For complete understanding of the proposition, Article 105 be read in conjunction with Articles 130 and 131 of the Constitution.

Khosa holds the opinion that the interpretation would entitle the governor to insist that the issue be placed before the cabinet in terms of Article 131 of the Constitution, and this would destroy the whole structural edifice of the very law regulating the affairs of the University. The governor has also quoted a Supreme Court decision which has categorically held that advice of the chief minister is only binding when it is given in accordance with the Constitution and the law as laid down in PLD-1997-Supreme Court-84.Khosa has also quoted the Supreme Court decision in Al-Jehad case which has interpreted Article 105.

The governor has also raised another objection to the CM’s summary, as he observed. “Admittedly, the CM did not interview Dr. Muhammad Zafarullah, who too had been recommended by the high-powered search committee amongst the three nominees for the slot of vice- chancellor, therefore, the summary of the chief minister advising the appointment of Dr Syed Khawaja Alqama is not based on comparable assessment of all the recommendees.

In response to governor’s rejection of CM’s first summary on the subject, the latter observed as under:“The purported powers claimed by the governor and the subsequent appointment of Dr Muhammad Zafarullah as BZU VC claimed to be made by him, have no legal or constitutional basis. Nor does the chancellor have the authority to arrogate himself the power to sit over the judgment of the CM inter alia in the matter of the advice given by him in the context of Section 14 (1) read with Section 11 (8) of Bahauddin Zakariya University Multan Act, 1975.“Accordingly, the purported appointment of Dr Muhammad Zafarullah, in disregard of the advice of the chief minister, is illegal, void ab initio and of no legal effect in view of Section 14 (1) and Section 11 (8) of the BZU Act , 1975 read with Article 105 of the Constitution”. – Nation