LONDON/LAHORE: President of Pakistan Democratic Movement Maulana Fazlur Rehman Saturday expressed complete distrust in the Supreme Court's three-judge bench — headed by Chief Justice Umar Ata Bandial — hearing the election postponement case.
"We have no faith in this court. PDM doesn't trust the bench comprising these three judges," said the PDM president, who is also the chief of Jamiat Ulema-e-Islam-Fazl (JUI-F), during a presser in Islamabad.
His comments came after the PDM-led government, earlier today, decided to boycott the Supreme Court's three-judge bench hearing the election delay case after Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) supremo Nawaz Sharif extended support to the ruling alliance's new plan of action.
The ruling coalition, under the banner of PDM comprising 13 political parties, met with Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif in Lahore today.
During the press conference, Fazl added that the chief justice and the other two judges should morally recuse themselves from this case. The PDM president alleged that a few judges want to provide relief to Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) Chairman Imran Khan — whose party has filed a plea against the delay in the polls.
He further alleged that two major culprits of rigging are on the loose and no notice is being taken against them and said that elections should take place on the same day across the country to take place to keep the country united.
"Imran Khan wants divisions within institutions," Fazl said, highlighting the impact of the PTI chief's plea in the apex court.
According to a statement issued later, the meeting of the heads of the component parties of the PDM demanded that elections should be held in the country at the same time.
“Holding transparent and impartial elections is a fundamental constitutional requirement and deviation from it will push the country into political crisis,” read a declaration issued by the PDM.
Matters relating to the country’s overall situation, the alliance’s future strategy and other issues were discussed in the meeting.
In view of the ongoing economic crisis being faced by the cash-strapped country, the meeting noted that if the elections are not held at the same time, the situation would be tantamount to a “suicide attack” on the economic interest of the country.
The ruling alliance also expressed distrust over the three-member bench of the SC hearing the PTI’s petition against the postponement of elections in Punjab.
The meeting demanded that the ongoing proceedings of the court in the case should be terminated by accepting the top court’s 4-3 verdict.
“The chief justice of the apex court wants to impose the decision of the minority on the verdict of the majority,” read the declaration.
It further said that an SC bench headed by Justice Qazi Faez Isa had ordered to stop the hearing of all the cases filed under Article 184(3).
“Contradictory verdicts by the courts have created an impracticable and complicated situation,” the statement added.
The PDM urged the top judge to listen to the dissenting voices from the benches of the SC and form a full court bench on the petition to end the impression of a “one-man show”.
The meeting cited the three-judge bench's verdict in connection with Article 63 (A) — “through which the Constitution was rewritten” — the main reason behind the ongoing political instability in the country.
The impression that the chief justice and some other judges carry out a special discriminatory attitude towards the PTI should be eliminated, the meeting maintained.
Meanwhile, the PML-N supremo, according to Geo News sources, pitched the strategy to PDM during a meeting chaired by PM Shehbaz at his residence in Model Town where the huddle deliberated ways to counter the PTI's legal tactics pressurising the government in Islamabad.
A hearing on the postponement of elections in Punjab is ongoing in the country's top court following a suo motu notice taken by Chief Justice Umar Ata Bandial in this regard.
The meeting, as per the sources, was held to hear from Nawaz whether the government should cooperate or not with the ongoing judicial procedure.
As per sources, Nawaz's blunt opinion was: “There is no expectation of justice from the three-member bench”.
"The three-member bench includes Saqib-Nisar-fied judges [smitten by Justice (retd) Saqib Nisar, former chief justice of the Supreme Court]," sources quoted Nawaz as saying.
The consultative meeting agreed that the Attorney General of Pakistan Mansoor Usman Awan would appear in the court and expressed no confidence in the three-member bench.
Sources said the PDM leadership also seconded the advice to boycott the bench, which was ratified by Nawaz, who reiterated that there was no other option than boycotting the bench.
Nawaz was also quoted as saying that the non-formation of a full court bench against the justified demand of the government was indicative of a certain agenda.
The PTI had challenged the Election Commission of Pakistan’s (ECP) March 22 order of postponing elections in the two provinces. A five-member bench originally formed to hear the plea had been dissolved twice after two judges recused themselves from the case following a Supreme Court order postponing all proceedings under Article 184(3).
However, after the recusal of two judges, a three-member bench which is headed by Justice Bandial and comprising Justice Ijazul Ahsan and Justice Munib Akhtar is now hearing the PTI plea.
The National Assembly and Senate, on Thursday and Friday, passed the Supreme Court (Practice and Procedure) Bill 2023 clipping powers of the chief justice amid protest by the Opposition.
Through this bill — presented by Law Minister Azam Nazeer Tarar, the parliament has limited Pakistan's top judge's discretionary powers to take suo motu notice — a move which comes amid a confrontation between the government and higher judiciary.
"The parliament has passed the bill," Tarar said while speaking with journalists.
The PM Shehbaz-led set up in Islamabad is currently at loggerheads with the apex court over conducting snap polls in Punjab and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa — the provinces where PTI Chairman Imran Khan dissolved assemblies earlier this year pressurising the government towards early elections.
Citing the deteriorating state of Pakistan's economy, the government refused to hold polls on separate occasions. Meanwhile, the Supreme Court has ordered elections to be held in the two provinces within 90 days of the assemblies' dissolution.
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