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Tuesday September 27, 2022

SC directs Hamza Shahbaz to work as ‘trustee’ CM till Monday, adjourns hearing

It is not a matter of interpretation but of correct understanding, states SC order issued after initial hearing

By Web Desk
July 23, 2022

Lahore Branch Registry — Supreme Court of Pakistan. — SC website
Lahore Branch Registry — Supreme Court of Pakistan. — SC website

LAHORE: The Supreme Court of Pakistan Saturday said that Chief Minister Punjab Hamza Shahbaz will work as a trustee till Monday (July 25).

The orders came during a hearing on PML-Q leader Pervez Elahi's petition against Punjab Assembly Deputy Speaker Dost Mazari's ruling in the provincial CM’s election held on Friday.

The Supreme Court issued the directives after it resumed the hearing of a petition filed by Elahi, challenging the ruling of Deputy Speaker Punjab Assembly  Dost Mazari.

The court, in its verbal order, has said that the chief minister's powers will be limited.

"All the appointments will be merit-based and those made without merit will be nullified," it was added.

The Supreme Court said that the chief minister will not do anything for political gain and that the court will keep a check on him.

Arguments of Mazari's counsel

During the hearing, which was held via video link, the court asked Advocate General Punjab Shahzad Shaukat on what basis was he defending the ruling of the deputy speaker — who rejected 10 votes of PML-Q citing Article 63(A). The advocate general Punjab said that the case is being defended on the basis of the decision announced by the Election Commission of Pakistan.

Advocate Irfan Qadir — who is representing the deputy speaker — said that the Supreme Court in its decision taken on PTI’s petition regarding vote of defiant members had ruled that vote of dissident members would not be counted.

However, Chief Justice Bandial said: “We would not reconsider the verdict announced on May 17 as it has not been challenged here yet.”

He said that the deputy speaker citing SC’s verdict did not reject PML-Q’s 10 votes therefore the defending advocate should only highlight the part where this has been written.

Addressing advocate Qadir he said that you are a senior lawyer and should know where the deputy speaker took reference for his ruling; the advocate, however, tried to defend the loopholes by saying that he was only appointed two hours before the hearing.

Adding to the argument, Justice Ijaz Ul Ahsan asked advocate Qadir to read the para which was cited by the deputy speaker.

“According to Article 3(1)A, votes of dissident members would not be counted, this was the court’s investigation,” he read. To this Justice Ahsan said that this was the court’s verdict and not an investigation.

Advocate Qadir said that the deputy speaker considered it correct not to count PML-Q’s votes in the light of the Supreme Court’s decision, he thought that the party head is considered the parliamentary head of the party.

Justice Ahsan asked the advocate that for instance if the deputy speaker misunderstood the SC’s earlier verdict and what would be the outcome? Advocate Qadir said that there is no dispute on the facts; however, he cannot make a confession statements because of his fear of the court.

CJP Bandial said that it seems that the deputy speaker gave the ruling against the court's decision.

"The deputy speaker is answerable on what basis did he give the ruling," he added.

The court ordered Mazari as well as the Punjab government to submit a written and comprehensive reply.

During the hearing, CJP Bandial asked Mazari's counsel whether he has brought the record or not.

“We want to see the letter written by the party head,” CJP Bandial said, adding that under Article 63(1)A, the parliamentary party has been given a separate identity therefore the court wants to see the letter.

Details of the hearing

The decision to conduct the hearing via video link was made after the courtroom door was damaged following a rush of people trying to get through.

The video link room was opened and only the respondents' lawyers were allowed to be present in person.

The media was not allowed to enter the courtroom.

A three-member bench — headed by Chief Justice Umar Ata Bandial, and comprising Justice Ijaz Ul Ahsan and Justice Munib Akhtar — was holding the hearing at the Supreme Court's Lahore registry.

The court had summoned Mazari, and sent notices to Chief Minister Punjab Hamza Shahbaz, the Punjab chief secretary and the advocate general for Punjab.

Barristers Ali Zafar, Imtiaz Siddiqui, and Safdar Shaheen Advocate appeared on behalf of Elahi, while Advocate Mansoor Usman Awan was representing Hamza Shahbaz.

Additional Attorney General Aamir Rehman and Advocate General Punjab Shahzad Shaukat had appeared for judicial assistance.

PTI leaders present in the courtroom included Shah Mahmood Qureshi, Asad Umar, Fawad Chaudhary, Omar Ayub, Zulfi Bukhari, Sibtain Khan, Umar Sarfraz Cheema, Usman Buzdar and Andalib Abbas.

The top court also sent notices to Chief Minister Punjab Hamza Shahbaz, the Punjab chief secretary and the advocate general for Punjab.

As the hearing began, the chief justice asked Mazari's lawyer if he has the waqalat naama (power of attorney) for Mazari, to which Advocate Qadir replied in the affirmative.

First half of the hearing

Earlier, Ali Zafar informed the court about the assembly proceedings that took place during the election on Friday. The re-election was ordered by the apex court on July 1.

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

He said that the deputy speaker rejected 10 votes in his ruling citing the Supreme Court order in Article 63A interpretation case and ignoring the role of the parliamentary party.

At this, CJP Bandial said the court would summon Dupty Speaker Dost Mazari and issue notices to other parties as well.

"We wish to personally hear from the deputy speaker. Only the deputy speaker can tell us which paragraph he was referring to," Justice Bandial said.

CJP Bandial said that the deputy speaker should come to the court with all the relevant documents and not be "frightened" as this is "just a legal procedure".

"The matter in issue seems more likely to be a controversy regarding the proper understanding or comprehension of the statement of law in our aforesaid judgement (paragraph 3 in Article 63A's order) rather than of interpretation as such of a constitutional provision," a short written order read issued after the initial hearing.

'Entire country condemning deputy speaker's ruling'

After the day's proceedings concluded, former information minister and senior PTI leader Fawad Chaudhry told the media persons that the entire country is condemning the ruling of the deputy speaker, adding that the lawyers have declared it “illegal”.

Highlighting the numbers, he said that the candidate who secured 186 votes is being sent into the Opposition while Hamza who secured 179 votes has been given the chief ministership of the province.

Fawad further added that the letter on the basis of which Mazari gave his ruling was a “secret” letter and only the deputy speaker knew about its content as it is unclear whether Shujaat also knows about the letter or not?

He mentioned that the SC verbal order today nullified Hamza’s oath taken today.

‘Person who lost elections will serve as caretaker CM’

Taking to his Twitter handle, former planning minister and PTI leader Asad Umar said that the person who according to the SC’s decision today was “never elected” as the chief minister and the person who lost the election in front of the entire nation will serve as the “caretaker CM for two days.”

‘Deputy speaker played the role of toy’

Speaking to journalists outside the premises of the court, PTI leader Farrukh Habib said that Hamza will work as a “trustee” CM till the final verdict is announced by the Supreme Court.

He further added that the deputy speaker played the role of “toy that is played with the help of a key”.

'Pakistan not far from Sri Lanka moment'

Meanwhile, PTI  Chairman Imran Khan slammed the coalition government for bringing the country to its knees politically and economically.

In a series of tweets, the PTI chairman said that the people of Pakistan have had enough and will not allow these mafias to continue their loot and plunder. 

"We are not far from Sri Lanka moment when our people pour out into the streets."

PML-Q petition

Following an unexpected move by PML-Q President Chaudhry Shujaat Hussain, PTI and PML-Q filed a petition in the Supreme Court (SC) Lahore Registry against Dost Mazari’s ruling which cited the Supreme Court's opinion on Article 63(A) for rejecting 10 votes polled in favour of Pervez Elahi "against the party line."

Earlier, after a crucial session of the Punjab assembly, PML-N's candidate Hamza Shahbaz retained the post of the Punjab CM against Punjab Assembly Speaker Chaudhry Pervez Elahi through a three-vote victory.

Following the counting of votes, the deputy speaker, citing Article 63A of the Constitution, rejected 10 votes cast by the PML-Q members. As a result, Hamza received 179 votes, while Elahi managed to bag 176 votes.

After the election, a joint parliamentary party meeting of PTI and PML-Q deliberated on Dost Mazari’s ruling. Later, they reached the apex court's Lahore Registry to submit the petition.

Pervez Elahi’s counsel Aamir Saeed Rawn filed the petition in the SC in which Hamza Shahbaz, Deputy Speaker Dost Mazari and the chief secretary were made parties.

While talking to the media, Aamir Saeed said Deputy Speaker Dost Mazari had interpreted the SC verdict wrong, therefore, Chief Justice Pakistan (CJP) should take sou motu notice.

On the occasion, PTI leader Yasmeen Rashid said that “186 members of Punjab assembly are present here, therefore I request that court should be opened immediately.”