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LAHORE: The Supreme Court of Pakistan restored Saturday the July 01 interim status of Punjab Chief Minister Hamza Shahbaz, directing him to work as ‘trustee’ till next hearing of the petition filed by PML-Q leader Ch Pervaiz Elahi against the ruling of Punjab Assembly Deputy Speaker Dost Muhammad Mazari that rejected 10 votes of the PML-Q MPAs in re-election of the Chief Minister.

A three-member bench, headed by Chief Justice Umar Ata Bandial, and comprising Justice Ijazul Ahsan and Justice Munib Akhtar, held the hearing at the Supreme Court’s Lahore registry and issued notices to the parties, asking the deputy speaker to tell as to what grounds he had given the ruling.

Justice Umar Ata Bandial remarked, “It seems Punjab Assembly Deputy Speaker Dost Muhammad Mazari issued his ruling in violation of the Supreme Court’s decision.”

He pointed out, “If the words of the party chief are to be believed, it would mean that a dictatorship should be established in the party.”

He observed, “Prima facie, Hamza Shahbaz’s election as Punjab chief minister is in jeopardy.”

The court ordered Hamza Shehbaz to work as per the law and constitution and perform routine affairs.

“The court will supervise the affairs of the Chief Minister, and if an appointment in the province is made without merit, it will be declared null and void,” the court declared.

The Chief Justice remarked there was nothing in their decision that the deputy speaker mentioned during the assembly proceedings. “We are here to learn and will summon the deputy speaker so that he could identify the paragraph from the apex court’s decision which he used to decide on the matter,” the Chief Justice said.

Elahi moves SC against deputy speaker’s ruling

“We wish to personally hear from the deputy speaker. Only the deputy speaker can tell us which paragraph he was referring to,” the Chief Justice added.

CJP Bandial stated, “The matter in this issue seems more likely to be a controversy regarding the proper understanding or comprehension of the statement of law in our aforesaid judgment rather than of interpretation as such of a constitutional provision.”

Justice Ijazul Ahsan remarked that the parliamentary leader’s role was definite and unambiguous. “While interpreting Article 63-A of the constitution, the apex court had laid down that votes of the MPAs going against the parliamentary leader’s instructions would not be counted,” he said and asked, “What is ambiguous in this?”

Justice Ijazul Ahsan said that the party head could only report on the violation of the orders by the parliamentary party. “It is a democratic tradition that the parliamentary party decides on the matters within the assemblies,” he added.

Earlier, the counsel of Pervaiz Elahi appeared before the court to argue the case and prayed to the court to stop Hamza from taking oath.

At this, CJP Bandial cautioned the lawyer remarking that it was a legal question which required understanding more than interpretation.

When asked by Justice Ijazul Ahsan about how many members were present in the house, Barrister Ali Zafar said that there were 370 lawmakers in the provincial legislature when the election took place. “186 votes for Pervaiz Elahi while Hamza Shehbaz got 179 votes,” he argued and added that constitutionally Elahi won the CM election.

Barrister Ali Zafar said that the PA deputy speaker read out the apex court judgment while giving his ruling based on PML-Q President Shujaat Hussain’s letter. “Mazari deducted 10 votes polled in favour of Ch Pervaiz Elahi,” he added.

He said that the ruling was also a violation of the Supreme Court order and Article 63-A of the Constitution.

Ali Zafar contended that the deputy speaker ignored the role of parliamentary party, adding that according to the SC verdict on Article 63-A, the members would cast their votes on the instruction of parliamentary party. He continued that the parliamentary party issued a letter on July 21 stating that party members would vote for Ch Pervaiz Elahi.

He prayed to the court to strike down the deputy speaker’s ruling on vote count during the CM election.

After hearing his arguments, the Supreme Court adjourned the hearing till 2pm and issued a 3-page interim written order of the case after completing its first hearing.

The court summoned the deputy speaker, till 2:30pm along with all the record regarding election of the chief minister and his ruling.

The court also summoned CM Hamza, chief secretary, the attorney general of Pakistan (AGP) and advocate general. However, when the court was told that the AGP had gone abroad, the Chief Justice of Pakistan said that instead of him, the additional attorney general could appear before the court.

The court; however, could not start hearing at 2:30pm due to a great hustle and bustle in the courtroom.

As the court tried to resume the hearing, a large number of lawyers and workers of political parties thronged the courtroom. Even the glass pane of the courtroom door broke due to large swarm of people over there.

Seeing a large crowd in the courtroom, the Chief Justice of Pakistan was mulling to hear Elahi’s plea in another room. There was no space in the room even for lawyers.

Justice Ijazul Ahsan ordered that some of the people should leave the court to make room for the court people. He added that the court would try to hear the petition in another room.

The court; therefore, resumed the hearing via a video link after the courtroom got overcrowded.

Irfan Qadir Advocate appeared before the court on behalf of Deputy Speaker Mazari. When Qadir told the court that he would represent Mazari, the chief justice asked him whether he had got power of attorney from the deputy speaker. The lawyer answered in the affirmative.

Justice Ehsan questioned why Mazari had not appeared. Irfan Qadir said he was present to assist the court.

He; however, asked for time to submit his reply to the petition.

The court allowing him time adjourned the proceedings till July 25 to be held at Islamabad.

On Friday night, all 186 lawmakers of the PTI and PML-Q including their CM candidate Pervaiz Elahi reached the Supreme Court’s Lahore Registry to submit the petition.

Lahore Registry Deputy Registrar Ejaz Goraya and other staff also rushed to their offices at midnight and received the petition filed by PML-Q lawyer Amir Saeed Rawn.

Copyright Business Recorder, 2022

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