Coalition partners to boycott SC bench hearing election plea
Rule out possibility to talk to Imran on elections
LAHORE (Dunya News) – A key meeting of the ruling partners on Saturday unanimously boycotted the three-member Supreme Court (SC) bench hearing Punjab and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KP) elections case and demanded the SC to constitute a full bench for the purpose.
The huddle comes a day after the top court rejected a petition filed by the coalition government seeking the formation of a full court bench to hear the elections case.
PDM leaders reckoned that Justice Ijazul Ahsan's re-inclusion to the three-member SC bench comprising Chief Justice of Pakistan (CJP) Umar Ata Bandial, Justice Ijazul Ahsan and Justice Muneeb Akhtar, was unjust adding that it was an open violation of the SC rules of procedure. "The SC is asking politicians to join heads even though it is divided itself", they added. The current situation demanded that, they said, the remaining three judges should also distance themselves from the case.
— PMLN (@pmln_org) April 1, 2023
Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif chaired the meeting at his Model Town residence while Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz supremo Nawaz Sharif attended the huddle through a video link from London. PML-N chief organiser Maryam Nawaz, Former President Asif Ali Zardari, Minister for Foreign Affairs Bilawal Bhutto Zardari, PDM chief Molana Fazlur Rehman, PML-Q's Ch Saalik Hussian, Federal Law Minister Azam Nazir Tarar, SAPM Attaullah Tarar, Malik Ahmad Khan and other party leaders were also present.
The meeting observed that elections should be held at one time in the country otherwise the country would plunge into a political crisis. "It [holding elections separately] will be akin to a suicide attack on the country's economy", the statement added. The PDM would, it said, not tolerate any attempt to create a political and constitutional crisis in the country.
The participants said that an administrative issue had morphed into a political and constitutional crisis adding that ignoring economic, security, constitutional, legal, and political affairs was tantamount to indifference to state interests. "The haste to giving relief to a specific party for a specific purpose seems like a political agenda which is against the constitution and ultra vires to the ECP's authority", he added.
Know More: Suo moto notice: SC's contentious, yet action-packed, notices
The huddle maintained that the SC's larger bench had already disposed election plea with 4-3 adding that the CJP Umar Ata Bandial wanted to impose the decision of the minority on the majority-ruled bench. "It is binding on everyone to respect the verdict issued by SC judge Justice Qazi Faez Isa-led SC bench ordering to halt proceedings on ongoing suo motu cases.
PDM bigwigs said the parliament's recent legislation [Supreme Court (Practice and Procedure) Bill 2023] would help curb the practice of serving people with one-sided justice adding that the parliament was supreme and it should be respected. "We hope that President Dr Arif Alvi will not stay away from assenting the legislation due to his affiliation with his party [the PTI]", they added.
The statement read that the SC should not interfere with the constitutional authority of the ECP adding that the recent bench should follow the verdict issued by a four-member majority bench and halt ongoing proceedings. "The CJP should pay heed to the voices being raised from within the court so that impression of 'one man power show' may settle", it added. The huddle also demanded the CJP initiate proceedings on references filed by Pakistan Bar Council and other bar associations under Article 209.
Pakistan Democratic Movement (PDM) chief Molana Fazlur Rehman, talking to the media after the huddle, said the ruling coalition would neither negotiate nor hold any dialogue with the PTI chairman Imran Khan on elections.
He said Mr Khan was brought to power through rigging in the 2018 general elections and asked if the suo motu notice was taken on the rigging.
Former prime minister Imran Khan’s party had challenged the Election Commission of Pakistan's (ECP) order to put off the Punjab polls till Oct 8. The electoral body cited security and financial constraints as reasons to defer the elections.
Later, KP Governor Haji Ghulam Ali also asked the ECP to hold general elections in the province along with Punjab polls given the security situation in the province.
During Friday’s hearing, Chief Justice Umar Ata Bandial remarked that the proceedings could be halted temporarily if the government and the opposition engaged in dialogue. “We will play our constitutional role if dialogue is not held,” he said, adding: "Constitution is the spirit of democracy".
The judges of the apex court were being targeted, the chief justice lamented. "We are showing tolerance but we will look into this matter". "What I have done till today is aligned with Constitution," he maintained.
At one point, the chief justice said he would hold some important meeting after the hearing and remarked that there would be new dawn of hope on Monday.
The apex court also summoned secretaries of interior and finance on April 3 (Monday) after it turned down government’s plea for constitution of a full bench.
When Attorney General Usman Mansoor Awan again pleaded the court to form a full bench to hear the case, the CJP remarked that certain factors had to be reviewed before constituting the bench as sometimes there were issues regarding availability of all judges. “We also don’t want to affect the proceedings of other cases pending with the apex court,” he said.
The attorney general also told the SC that Pakistan was facing a deficit of billions of rupees and it was difficult to go for elections in these trying times. He came up with the argument on why the finance ministry had refused to provide funds to the ECP for elections. He also claimed that the interest rate was expected to rise to 22 per cent, which would further increase the country’s debt.