ISLAMABAD: Pakistan Democratic Movement (PDM) – a ruling alliance on Monday demanded the formation of a full court bench of the Supreme Court for a hearing petition regarding the election of Chief Minister Punjab, saying this would defeat all conspiracies against democracy and democratic culture.
The PDM leaders said they were not objecting to the powers of the apex court, however, they only wanted all judges should hear the petition and their verdict should be acceptable to all.
They opined during the past few years it was observed that a bench comprising specific three honourbale judges has been listening to cases of political nature.
At present, a three-member Supreme Court bench headed by Chief Justice of Pakistan, Justice Umar Ata Bandial is hearing the case filed by Pakistan Muslim League (PML-Q) leader Chaudhry Pervaiz Ilahi who had challenged ruling of Deputy Speaker Punjab Assembly during the election of Chief Minister Punjab.
Jamiat Ulema-e-Islam Amir and PDM President, Maulana Fazlur Rehman along with Vice President of Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) Maryam Nawaz, Chairman Pakistan People’s Party, Bilawal Bhutto Zardari, PML-Q’s Tariq Bashir Cheema, ANP’s Aimal Wali Khan, MQM’s Usama Qadri, leader of Balochistan Awami Party (BAP) Khalid Magsi, leader of Balochistan National Party (BNP) Agha Hassan Baloch and independent MNAs Aslam Bhutani and Mohsin Dawar were addressing a joint press conference centered on the current political situation that took a tailspin after Hamza Shahbaz’s election as Chief Minister of Punjab.
Other senior leaders of the PDM and cabinet members present on the occasion included Minister for Interior Rana Sanaullah, Minister for Planning and Development, Ahsan Iqbal, Minister for Information and Broadcasting Marriyum Aurangzeb, Minister for Environment Sherry Rehman, Minister for Power Khurram Dastgir, Minister Communications Maulana Asad Mehmood, and PM’s Adviser Amir Muqam.
Pakistan Democratic Movement (PDM) Chief Maulana Fazl-ur-Rehman, while highlighting the current political situation, said, “We want to make the country economically stable. All of us are on one page to set economy on right track and let us do it.”
He said the country was facing a serious economic crisis due to the previous regime’s bad governance, but “we saved it from bankruptcy and brought it on road to progress”.
The coalition government, he said, desired that a full court bench should hear the Punjab chief minister’s election case. The formation of full court bench was demand of the justice and there should be no controversy in its verdict in the larger national interest.
Seconding PML-N Vice President Maryam Nawaz’s views, Fazl said the government wanted to strengthen the judiciary but “their decisions should also speak themselves”.
The PDM chief said the incumbent government, which was given the mandate by people, was not being allowed to function properly. The people’s confidence in the state institutions needed to be restored and for that the latter should assess their role and hold themselves accountable.
At the outset, Maryam Nawaz highlighted the importance of justice dispensation in the society without any discrimination for achieving the required goals of national development and prosperity.
She quoted the famous saying of Winston Churchill, who during the World War-II had said,” “Whether the country’s courts are dispensing justice, if yes, no force of the world can defeat us.”
It was unfortunate, she said, that during the last few years, there was a series of “startling decisions given by the judiciary.” There could be a ‘wrong decision’ but there should not be consistency in that regard as the court verdicts left deep impact on the society for decades.
The PML-N vice president said she had been advised by the ‘sympathizers’ not to hold the media talk as it would affect her appeal in the Panama case that was being heard by the Islamabad High Court and was in the “final stages”. However, “I said the people’s representatives have to think beyond themselves and think about the people.”
“I can write an essay praising the judiciary but one wrong decision will dismiss the entire [argument],” she said, adding that on the other hand, a decision based on justice could withstand criticism.
She said Hamza Shehbaz won the slot of Punjab chief minister in the run-off election, but the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) approached the Lahore Registry of Supreme Court, with its workers jumping the court walls, and that also opened late night despite a holiday. It was ironic that the Registrar waited for filing of the petition that was not even ready by that time, she added. “It never happens in filing of petitions.”
Maryam Nawaz expressed concern over the existing system of petition filing and constitution of court benches.
She recalled that in the Senate chairman’s election as many as six votes were rejected; and subsequently Muhammad Sadiq Sanjrani was elected as the chairman. The court was approached which said that ruling of the presiding officer “cannot be challenged”.
Contrary to that, she said, in the Punjab chief minister’s election, Deputy Speaker Dost Muhammad Mazari rejected 10 votes of the Pakistan Muslim League-Q on the advice of party head Chaudhry Shujaat Hussain, but in that case the PTI was being fully entertained by the court.
The PML-Q president had asked his party’s members of the Punjab Assembly to cast their vote in favour of Hamza Shehbaz, but they defied, so their votes were rejected in line with the law and the Constitution, she added.
Maryam Nawaz said Punjab Assembly’s deputy speaker was summoned by the Supreme Court on rejecting the PML-Q votes, but former National Assembly deputy speaker Qasim Suri, who had violated the Constitution by rejecting the no-confidence motion against the then prime minister Imran Khan, was not summoned.
She said 25 lawmakers in the Punjab Assembly were de-seated by the court on a petition of the PTI and even their votes were not counted in the chief minister’s election held in April. “Ninety-five per cent independent jurists said that it was tantamount to rewriting
the Constitution . . . resultantly 25 PML-N members were given to the PTI . . . the PML-N votes go in minus and the PTI’s in plus.”
She viewed that the interpretation and definition of the Constitution should not vary on case to case basis.
Maryam Nawaz said PML-N chief Muhammad Nawaz Sharif was ousted in the Panama case from prime ministership and even removed from the party’s top slot for holding an ‘Iqama,’ maintaining that the party head was ‘everything’ as he influenced running the party affairs and the voters.
“Now, when Chaudhry Shujaat Hussain as the PML-Q head gives directives to the party members, they come under question. But, when PTI chairman Imran Khan gives order it stands respectable,” she said, adding in the case of Chaudhry Shujaat, the parliamentary party stood superior, but in the PTI case, the party head was given weightage.
“There is no insult to any institution from outside as it happens from within.”
Maryam Nawaz said since Hamza Shehbaz had became Punjab’s chief minister, he was unable to perform his duties as he remained stuck up in matters related to ‘the parliament and the court.’
She said the previous PTI government had ruined the national economy, but no one commented on it, but they started commenting on the state of economy when the incumbent government came into power in April, 2022.
If the economic comparison had to be drawn, she said, it would be between 2017, when Nawaz Sharif was ousted, and April 2022, when Imran Khan left the economy on the ‘ventilator’.
She said majority of the judges enjoyed a good reputation and integrity, and they should also be made part of the benches hearing the PML-N cases.
She regretted that the PML-N leadership was called with the titles of ‘Godfather and Sicilian Mafia,’ besides holding extensive investigation against them but the corruption of even a single penny was not proved against them.
Maryam Nawaz said the ‘declared absconder’ Imran Khan was used to appear in court hearings with protocol, while PML-N leaders Talal Chaudhry and Daniyal Aziz faced contempt of court proceedings.
She said the PTI, during its previous 126-day sit-in 2014, had launched a physical attack on the state institutions, including the Parliament House and the Pakistan Television Headquarters, but unfortunately, he was not held accountable. Now, that episode was repeated when the PTI was given access to the (Federal Capital’s) Red Zone for the peaceful long march, but it turned into a violent protest.
Pakistan Peoples Party Chairman and Foreign Minister Bilawal Bhutto Zardari also called for formation of a full bench of Supreme Court to hear the case related to the Punjab CM’s election.
The full court bench, he stressed, was important to avoid any “controversial and partial” verdict in the case. Only three judges could not decide the nation’s destiny.
“When all judges will hear the case, no one will have any objection to the decision,” he said, pointing out,“All institutions need to work within their own ambit.”
The verdict by a three-member bench would give an impression that the institutions were “not neutral”, he added.
Bilawal mentioned that his party had a long history of struggle for upholding democracy in the country and had rendered immense sacrifices.
“We want the country to be run in accordance with the Constitution,” he said, criticizing the last PTI government for wreaking havoc on the economy and de-stabilizing the country during its four years tenure.
Muttahida Qaumi Movement (MQM) leader Osama Qadri expressed the hope that the Supreme Court would constitute a full bench to hear the Punjab CM’s election matter. The honourable institutions should respect the wishes of citizens.
He said there was no harm in establishing a full bench. It was the public demand and the honorable judiciary should consider it. It was also the constitutional right of political parties to request the apex court that the important matter should be heard by its all honourable judges.
Osama Qadri said all the political parties were united on major political issues in the country. “We want supremacy of the law and strengthening of democratic institutions. We are against any unconstitutional move, considering it against the people’s wishes.”
PML-Q leader and Minister for Food Security Tariq Bashir Cheema said the demand for setting up a full court bench of the SC by the government’s allied parties was genuine and there was nothing wrong in it.
The three judges currently hearing the matter would also be the part of full court, whose decision would help address the issues being confronted by the country, he added.
Jamhoori Watan Party (JWP) leader and Minister for Narcotics Control Shah Zain Bugti also endorsed the demand for formation of a full court bench, terming it need of the hour to avoid any controversy at the critical juncture.
Awami National Party (ANP) leader Aimal Wali Khan said all the state institutions should work under the ambit Constitution, as, otherwise, it would create chaos in the country.
He said it were the political leadership, which had given the Constitution to the country that united the nation. There was no point in sitting together by ‘all the parties’ to save the country if the decisions regarding the nation’s fate were made elsewhere, he opined.
“If a party president has no power then there is no use of his position and the parliamentary leader should be given his powers,” he said, adding, “The parliamentary leader is answerable to the party president.”
Aimal said, “The time has come to save the country and its economy.” If constitutional violators were left unpunished then the country could lead towards anarchy, he added.
The ANP leader said, “I want to request through this platform that if anything happens to this government then its leadership should be allowed to decide their future course. We will have to hold the PTI chairman accountable if we want to save the country.”
Regarding the news about the SC decision barring the political parties’ leaders from entering its premises, Muhammad Aslam Bhootani, an independent Member of the National Assembly (MNA) from Balochistan, , said, “We should all go there and confirm the veracity of the order.”
Balochistan National Party (Mengal) MNA Agha Hassan Baloch said it was regrettable to ban the entry of political leaders and workers to hear the court proceedings.
Balochistan Awami Party (BAP) Parliamentary Leader Khalid Hussain Magsi suggested that all stakeholders should call a grand jirga to decide the country’s future as “we have failed to put Pakistan on the right track”.
He said the Punjab CM’s election had caused uncertainty in Pakistan. “The country seems to be working like a tribal system.”
National Democratic Movement Chairman and MNA Mohsin Dawar said a country could not function without the supremacy of law. The only binding document, he added, was the Constitution that had kept the entire nation unified.
“If we will not uphold the Constitution supreme then it may create chaos,” he said.
During the course of the press conference, the information minister announced that the SC bench had issued a directive to ban entry of the coalition leaders participating in the media talk.