The government has started considering filing a judicial reference against bench number one of the Supreme Court, headed by the Chief Justice of Pakistan (CJP) Justice Umar Ata Bandial, hearing the election delay case on the petition of the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI).
The government's position comes after the three-judge bench, hearing the PTI's plea seeking a judicial order for elections in Punjab and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, has decided to forge ahead to complete the proceedings despite calls for a full court bench from the PDM-aligned parties.
The PTI dissolved its provincial assemblies in KP and Punjab in January this year at the behest of party chief Imran Khan, seeking early elections.
The tensions have escalated following the top court's order on March 1 to the Election Commission of Pakistan to hold elections in the two provinces within the 90 days of the dissolution of the two assemblies, i.e. by April 30. However, the coaltion government went for curtailing the CJP's discretionary powers for taking suo motu notice through a law -- the Supreme Court (Practice and Procedure) Bill, 2023.
Interior Minister Rana Sanaullah, in a recent interview, said that the government has not so far decided to file a reference against the three-member bench, including the chief justice, but it may proceed to. The government can bring references against the judges who it has reservations against, he noted, adding the government may hold discusion to file reference against the judges as it has serious concerns.
Rana Sanaullah said that the three judges have a long record of giving anti-PML-N rulings.
There is also a verdict, which has been termed equivalent to rewriting the Constitution by not only the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) but also everyone else who knows a little bit of the law, he said, referring to the interpretation of Article 63(A) by the apex court.
The interior minister said that under the Article 63(A) verdict, the PML-N government was overthrown in Punjab. It still appears that three judges are determined to make this verdict themselves at any cost.
He said that a bench comprising nine members was initially formed, but was subsequently reduced to seven, then to five, and further to four. Currently, the bench is composed of three judges, he pointed out.
All three judges have rejected the request to form a full court bench, he said, adding they [the three judges] have refused to acknowledge the request from their fellow judges.
The interior minister further said that there is no other way for them to register their protest than to file a reference against the said judges.
The PML-N minister called on PTI chief Imran Khan to directly approach Maulana Fazlur Rehman, Asif Zardari, or Shehbaz Sharif, if he is serious about negotiations as offer from others made on Khan's behalf has no significance. Imran Khan has not made any personal overtures towards talks, he noted.
Rana Sanaullah said that the leaders of the Pakistan Democratic Movement (PDM) met on Saturday. All the coalition leaders, including Asif Ali Zardari of the Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) who attended the meeting through a video link from Dubai, unanimously agreed that the three-member bench's proceedings were unconstitutional and illegal.
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