ISLAMABAD: Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) and Awami Muslim League (AML) Friday challenged in the Supreme Court (SC) the appointment of Mohsin Raza Naqvi as the caretaker chief minister Punjab, praying for declaring his appointment as illegal and unlawful.
AML Chairman Sheikh Rashid Ahmed filed a petition in the apex court through Advocate Sardar Abdur Razaq Khan under Article 184(3) of the Constitution.
He made the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP), federation of Pakistan through secretary Law and Justice, province of Punjab through secretary Law and Justice and Mohsin Naqvi, caretaker chief minister Punjab as respondents.
He submitted that the ECP appointed Mohsin Naqvi as caretaker chief minister Punjab, saying that his name was put forth by the incumbent PDM [Pakistan Democratic Movement] government because of his close association with the ruling elite, particularly Asif Ali Zardari and the Sharif family, and his political enmity towards the opposition.
Sh Rashid submitted that Mohsin Naqvi was the owner of a media house, who was also involved in regime change conspiracy against the PTI and had actively been working for the PDM.
He submitted that Mohsin Naqvi was involved in a case of corruption and corrupt practices, initiated by the National Accountability Bureau (NAB), and he had struck plea bargain/ voluntary return of money under Section 25 of the NAB Ordinance 1999, and thus he was a convicted person.
According to Section 15 of the NAB Ordinance 1999, where an accused person was convicted of an offence under Section 9 of the Ordinance, he should forthwith cease to hold public office and he should stand disqualified provided further that any accused person, who had availed the benefit of Section 25 should also be deemed to have been convicted for an offence under the Ordinance and should stand disqualified for any public office.
Sheikh Rashid submitted that the SC, in a suo moto case No 17/2016, had held that once a person was accused of corruption or corrupt practices, volunteers to offer to return the amount he had pocketed or gained through illegal means, could not hold any government/ public office.
Hence Mohsin Naqvi was not eligible to be appointed as the caretaker chief minister and thus he had no lawful authority to continue in the office, he contended.
He submitted that appointment of a caretaker setup was the first step towards free and fair elections, and if such a step was polluted with the appointment of a biased, partisan, dishonest and disqualified person, then holding of free and fair elections was not possible and the election process would stand polluted at the very beginning.
He contended that the election process was one of the key aspects of democracy, which had been regulated by the provisions of the Constitution and Election Act 2017.
Fair and transparent elections rested upon impartial, unbiased and honest caretaker setup, and the appointment of Mohsin Naqvi as the caretaker chief minister would defeat the constitutional mandate besides violating the fundamental rights of the citizens safeguarded under Article 3, 4, 9, 10A, 14, 15, 16, 17and 19 of the Constitution.
He submitted that the office of chief minister was highest constitutional office of the province, recognised by Article 130 and 260 of the Constitution, which requires selection of a person possessing high virtues, honesty, integrity, impartiality and strong moral values in accordance with the spirit of the Constitution.
He contended that Mohsin Naqvi had been involved in a corruption case and offence of moral turpitude; therefore, he was unsuitable to hold such a prestigious office.
Sheikh Rashid submitted that although the Election Commission had the discretion to make appointment in accordance with the spirit of Article 224-A of the Constitution, the said discretion had to meet the benchmark of being structured in the interest of uniformity, even handedness, probity and fairness.
“In the instant case, the discretion exercised by the ECP was ex-facie arbitrary, unfair, mala fide and abuse of powers,” Sh Rashid submitted, adding that it was also a bounded duty of the ECP under Article 224-A of the Constitution to appoint a person for caretaker chief minister who was fit to hold such public office and was not otherwise disqualified from holding such office.
He submitted that Mohsin Naqvi had been appointed solely on the basis of his political affiliation and personal relationship with the present regime; therefore, his appointment for the office of caretaker chief minister would seriously affect upcoming election in the Punjab province.
The ECP, by appointing Mohsin Naqvi as caretaker chief minister, has misused its authority and made mockery of the law and Constitution. Sheikh Rashid prayed the apex court to declare the appointment as illegal, unlawful, without lawful authority, result of misuse of authority and excess of jurisdiction and consequently, the same should be set aside.
He prayed the apex court that an appropriate direction be issued to the ECP to perform its duties under Article 218A, 219 and 224 of the Constitution and ensure free, fair and transparent elections in accordance with the law.
Likewise, the PTI as a party, and Asad Umer as general secretary of the party, also challenged the appointment of Mohsin Naqvi as caretaker chief minister of Punjab, and challenged the notification of National Assembly Speaker Raja Pervez Ashraf, declaring Raja Riaz Ahmed, MNA, as leader of the opposition in the National Assembly, as well as appointment of the ECP members from Punjab and Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa.
The PTI filed the petition under Article 184(3) of the Constitution making the federal secretary Law and Justice, Speaker National Assembly Raja Pervez Ashraf, Raja Riaz, the opposition leader in National Assembly, chief secretary Punjab, Mohsin Naqvi, caretaker CM Punjab, Chief Election Commissioner Sikandar Sultan Raja, four members of the ECP including Nisar Ahmed Durrani, Shah Muhammad Jatoi, Babar Hassan Bharwana and Justice (retd) Ikramullah Khan as respondents.
The PTI prayed the apex court to declare that the notification, issued by the ECP for appointment of Mohsin Naqvi as caretaker CM Punjab, was in violation of Article 224(3) of the Constitution, and he should be restrained in selecting, appointing the cabinet or be restrained from performing any function vis-à-vis the issues of elections till the decision of the instant petition.
Similarly, it prayed the apex court to declare that the notification issued with regard to declaring Raja Riaz as the opposition leader in the National Assembly was without lawful authority and of no legal effect.
The PTI prayed that the ECP and its members should be censured and held guilty of violating their constitutional position and committing misconduct.
“They should be declared partial and incapable to hold a free and fair election,” the PTI prayed.