ISLAMABAD - The Islamabad High Court (IHC) Tuesday disposed of a petition seeking directions to the federal government to notify Speaker Gilgit-Baltistan (GB) Assembly as acting Governor.

A single bench of IHC comprising Chief Justice of IHC Justice Athar Minallah conducted hearing of the petition moved by a citizen through his counsel Waheed ur Rehman Qureshi Advocate and adopted the stance that the said slot has been vacant for the last 48 days.  The petitioner asserted that he is a resident of GB and invoked the constitutional jurisdiction of the Court under Article 199 of the Constitution of the Islamic Republic of Pakistan, 1973 seeking the prayer that this court may kindly accept this writ petition and may graciously direct the federal government to notify the Speaker of the Gilgit-Baltistan Assembly as the Acting Governor of the GB including nominating the concerned official to take oath from the Speaker GB Assembly, thus, directing the Speaker of the GB Assembly to perform the functions of the Governor of the GB, in order to restore constitutional functioning of the GB as the post of Governor is vacant since 19th April, 2022.  The petitioner asserted in the memorandum of petition that the office of Governor, GB fell vacant on 19.04.2022. It is the case of the petitioner that the respondents, particularly the Federal Government are refusing to fulfill their obligations by notifying the Speaker as the Acting Governor of GB.  The counsel has referred to the relevant provisions of the Government of Gilgit-Baltistan Order, 2018 and Article 33 of the Order of 2018 provides that there shall be a Governor who shall be appointed by the President on the advice of the Prime Minister. Sub Article (2) of Article 33 is reproduced as follows: 33.(2) When the Governor, by reason of absence from Gilgit-Baltistan or for any other cause, is unable to perform his functions, the Speaker of the Assembly and in his absence any other person as the President may nominate shall perform the functions of Governor until the Governor returns to Gilgit-Baltistan or, as the case may be, resumes his functions.”

The IHC bench observed that admittedly, the office of Governor GB fell vacant pursuant to acceptance of resignation submitted by the former Governor. It added that in such an eventuality sub Article (2) of Article 33 is not attracted. However, in order to fill the office of Governor, Gilgit-Baltistan the President on the advice of the Prime Minister has to appoint a person as the Governor.

Justice Athar noted, “A combined reading of Article 33 of the Order of 2018 explicitly shows that after the office of Governor falls vacant then either a fresh appointment has to be made by the President on the advice of the Prime Minister.”

He added that in the light of the above, the prayer sought in the petition is misconceived.

“However, it is expected that the President will appoint a Governor on the advice of the Prime Minister in accordance with the manner prescribed under the Order of 2018,” maintained the IHC Chief Justice. He further said that the petition stands disposed of in the above terms.