The Supreme Court of Pakistan on Friday said that re-election for the post of Chief Minister Punjab will take place on July 22 as both parties reached a consensus on the matter, Aaj News reported.
The decision comes after the hours-long hearing on Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf's (PTI) plea against the Lahore High Court's (LHC) verdict of holding a re-poll for the Punjab chief minister.
While the PML-N insisted on holding the re-poll on Friday, as ordered by the high court, the PTI and PML-Q opposed it, saying many of their members would not be able to vote as they had gone to perform Umrah.
In a bid to break the deadlock, the top court asked Speaker Punjab Assembly Chaudhry Pervez Elahi to speak to PTI Chairman Imran Khan and come up with a solution — as it adjourned the hearing for half an hour.
After much back and forth, Punjab Assembly Speaker Pervez Elahi – a contender for the CM's slot – and PTI, the largest party in Punjab Assembly, agreed to accept Hamza Shehbaz as the acting Chief Minister till July 17 - the date for by-elections on 20 seats.
Chief Justice of Pakistan (CJP) Umar Ata Bandial presided over the bench hearing the petition. The other two judges hearing the case include Justice Ijaz ul Ahsan and Justice Jamal Khan Mandokhail.
“All parties have agreed to hold the election of the chief minister on July 22,” Chief Justice Umar Ata Bandial remarked while concluding the hearing on the case. The apex court said that a detailed verdict of the case will be issued by tonight.
PTI lawyer Babar Awan told the court that party chairman Imran Khan has accepted Hamza Shehbaz as acting chief minister till July 17.
He said that the PTI chairman wanted the Punjab police chief, provincial election commissioner, and chief secretary of the province to abide by the law.
“The PTI must inform the court on how a provincial government will be run without a chief minister,” the CJP observed, adding that, according to the Constitution, only elected representatives can run a provincial government.
Justice Bandial maintained that a caretaker government can only be set up in the face of the assembly being dissolved. The chief justice asked the PTI counsels to put their heads together and work out a solution.
CJP Bandial stated that the deadlock in Punjab should not be a matter of egos, rather an issue concerning the country. “If there is no chief minister, uncertainty will prevail,” he added.
During the course of the hearing, Justice Ijaz ul Ahsan stated that it was likely the election for the post of Punjab CM will not be held today at 4pm, however, deferring the vote for seven days was too long. The judge instead advised the court to set a time limit of 24, 36, or 48 hours.
To this, the counsel for Punjab Assembly Speaker Chaudhry Pervaiz Elahi requested the court for more time, arguing that six members of the provincial assembly were currently performing Umrah while the notifications concerning five important seats were still pending.
In response, Justice Mandokhail commented that the court had to refer to the Constitution and not the wishes of party members. “We must not do anything that can be misused,” he observed.
Earlier, the PTI filed on Friday an appeal in the Supreme Court against the Lahore High Court’s (LHC) decision to recount votes that were cast in the Punjab chief minister elections.
In its petition, the PTI said the order to conduct the election within 24 hours would damage the relief provided by the court. It added that many PTI MPAs are not in the country, with six of them in Saudi Arabia for Hajj, and would not be able to participate in the polling.
A three-member bench, headed by Chief Justice of Pakistan (CJP) Umar Ata Bandial and comprising Justice Ijazul Ahsan and Justice Jamal Khan Mandokhail will hear the petition today.
The Lahore High Court on Thursday ordered a recounting of votes of the Punjab CM elections held on April 16. It directed for exclusion of votes of 25 dissident lawmakers during re-counting.
The court added that for clarity Hamza Shahbaz shall cease to be chief minister if he loses the required majority.
The PTI has sought an immediate hearing on its plea, requesting the court to remove Hamza from Punjab CM's post. It also requested to suspend the process of recounting till a decision is made on its plea.
Hamza was elected as the Punjab CM by receiving a total of 197 votes, including votes from 25 dissident PTI MPAs.
PTI has been fighting against Hamza’s election from the start after the Punjab Assembly session for the CM election saw Deputy Speaker Sardar Dost Muhammad Mazari attacked, while PML-Q leader Chaudhry Parvez Elahi was injured.
PTI had filed a petition stated that the session held for conducting the election witnessed “immense chaos and most unfortunate events”.
Former Governor Punjab Omar Sarfraz Cheema had refused to administer oath to Hamza until it was clear that the election was conducted as per the Constitution and the directives of the LHC. Cheema was later removed from the post.