ISLAMABAD: Chief Justice of Pakistan, Umar Ata Bandial, said the court is showing restraint, “and our intentions should not be misunderstood.”
“We can’t close our eyes on the constitutional mandate, which talks about holding elections within 90 days,” the chief justice stated that on Friday while heading a three-judge bench, which also comprised Justice Ijazul Ahsan and Justice Munib Akhtar. The bench heard the petitions of Sardar Kashif Khan and others.
The chief justice noted that no one has challenged their order to hold elections in the Punjab on May 14. “Under the Constitution, all the organs of State function and the executive is bound to implement Court’s order,” adding if the Court’s order is not complied with then are consequences of it. “In good faith, we are showing restraint. We will pass an order whatever happens.”
The chief justice further said; “We wanted the political forces to sit down and find out the solution of the present political crisis.” Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) Vice-Chairman Shah Mahmood Qureshi told the bench that they talked to the government but it bore no meaningful results, therefore, don’t want further dialogue as “they do not see any way out.”
The chief justice said; “We want the country to progress,” adding there have been wars in many countries, and in Turkey despite an earthquake the elections were held. The chief justice said that money could be arranged for the elections and remarked that the government could pass the budget in May instead of June.
The chief justice said that the nations show the determination to follow the constitution and law. He questioned why the date of October 8 is so significant. He said it was not the court’s intention to pass any direction or order.
He said still the government has not filed a review petition against our order dated April 4, 2023, adding time for filing a review petition is passing. He said it is argued that so far the matter be left to the political process, adding they would pass an order. He said the court was only facilitating the process. “Our neighbour (Parliament) is criticising us, but we would not respond to the political statements.” “We have taken the oath to protect and defend the constitution.”
Khawaja Saad Rafique, appearing on behalf of the government’s negotiation team, said that no one wanted conflict between the institutions. He said the other side (the PTI) is not willing to show flexibility, despite the fact they (the government) have made an effort to reach an agreement, and it was also the Court’s desire that the matter be resolved through dialogue. Both sides have to be serious and come up with some solution.
The PML-N leader said if elections are held in the Punjab on May 14 then there will be serious consequences of it as when the National Assembly elections will be conducted at that time in Punjab there will be a new government, while after the 18th Amendment the caretaker government should be place in the Centre and provinces.
He emphasised that there is a trust deficit among the institutions, and complained that since 2017 the Supreme Court’s treatment of the parties in the government has not been good. He said surely the Constitution demands that the elections should be held within 90 days after the dissolution of the assembly. However, the other provisions of the constitution say that the elections should be held in a free, fair and transparent manner. He said if the Punjab elections are held now than it would enhance bitterness among the people. The winning parties may accept the election result, but the losing parties would never accept it, then there will be another crisis situation.
The PML-N leader said the country could be saved from further crisis if the elections are held the same day across the country. The Pakistan Democratic Movement (PDM) which comprises 13 political parties wanted the elections held simultaneously. “We have a formula, which may have resolved the situation, but the PTI side left the meeting.”
He requested the Court to take suo motu to include those points which were left out, adding the Court had been taking suo motu, so why not a suo motu on points which the attorney general for Pakistan and other lawyers missed in their earlier submissions.
The chief justice responded that they have stopped taking suo motu. However, Saad Rafique said that on the basis of suo motu, the Court asked for holding elections in the Punjab on May 14.
Justice Bandial said the government has not taken the matter seriously, adding no one discussed a point, which was highlighted in Justice Athar Minallah’s order, to revive the provincial assemblies of the Punjab and Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa. Farooq H Naek replied that they have raised the issue, but the court did not listen to them.
The CJP asked Saad Rafique why all these points were not told to the Court earlier, adding the court was erstwhile informed that is scarcity of funds and security officials are busy in operations in the KP and Balochistan. You (the government) are not interested in the law and the Constitution, and are only interested in politics, he said.
Shah Khawar, representing Sardar Kashif, said that all these points, which have been raised during the proceedings today could be included in the government’s review petition. He said the legal points, which they have raised in the petition should be decided on merit.
Saad Rafique said that consensus was reached for same day elections, caretaker governments and that all the parties would accept the results. Now date and months have to be finalised and that would also be done through dialogue within days. He said the government does not have the desire to extend elections date even for one hour. He requested the Court not to get involved in political matters. “We don’t want that the democracy in the country is derailed.” “We have faced the Martial Laws of Ziaul Haq, Musharraf, and even of the veiled.”
The chief justice said that the law minister of the government is talking about 4-3 judgment.
The chief justice asked Shah Mahmood, “Would you be interested to meet again?” However, the PTI vice-chairman said his party does not see any way out. “We have made utmost efforts that the dialogue bear result, but the other side is not interested.”
The PTI leader said they do not see any perspective of improvement. He submitted that the PTI has already accepted the decision of the Court, while the other side is talking about 4-3 judgment.
Copyright Business Recorder, 2023