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Friday April 19, 2024

Anticlimactic end to apex court hearing: No directive or timeline for talks on Punjab polls, says CJP

Says the court will issue appropriate order; things will remain as they are in the absence of a consensus

By By Sohail Khan & Desk News
April 28, 2023
Chief Justice of Pakistan (CJP) Umar Ata Bandial. — Supreme Court website
Chief Justice of Pakistan (CJP) Umar Ata Bandial. — Supreme Court website

ISLAMABAD: The Supreme Court on Thursday asked the political parties to evolve consensus on the date for general elections in the supreme national interest and adhere to the Constitution, holding that its order of polls on May 14 was already in the field if the politicians failed to come up with an amicable solution.

A three-member bench of the apex court headed by Chief Justice of Pakistan (CJP) Umar Ata Bandial and comprising Justice Ijazul Ahsen and Justice Munib Akhtar heard the petition of Sardar Kashif Khan seeking the holding of general elections of the National Assembly and provincial assemblies on the same date.

During the hearing, Justice Bandial remarked that the court would not issue any directives nor will it issue a timeline for the talks. However, he added that the court will issue an appropriate order.

“We are trying to find a way for enforcement of the Constitution which is conducive for a political and constitutional solution otherwise our judgment on polls in Punjab is there, the CJP remarked.

He observed that if the government and opposition failed to evolve a consensus in the supreme national interest and for the protection of the Constitution then things would stay the same.

Last week, the apex court adjourned the hearing till April 27 after Attorney General Mansoor Awan and Pakistan Peoples Party’s Farooq H Naek met the bench in the Chamber.

They had apprised the bench about deliberations amongst the senior cabinet members and their interaction with a senior office-bearer of the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI).

They had submitted that a recess is being taken on account of the Eidul Fitr holidays because several political leaders and party heads had left for their hometowns.

However, they had informed the bench that a meeting had been scheduled among the political leaders on April 26, the proceedings and progress of which will be reported to the court on April 27.

On Thursday, as the proceeding began, the attorney general appraised the court that the first contact between the government and the opposition had taken place on April 19 and they agreed to meet on April 26.

The AG submitted that federal ministers Ayaz Sadiq and Khwaja Saad Rafique met PTI’s former National Assembly speaker Asad Qaiser for moving forward with the dialogue but the PTI leader informed them that he did not have the authority to hold talks.

AG Mansoor Awan further informed the court that the members of the ruling coalition met the other day, adding that two of the coalition partners had objections to the negotiations; however, the government found a way out.

He further told the court that Senate Chairman Sadiq Sanjrani had written to the government and opposition and sought four names from the treasury and opposition benches each in Parliament.

Justice Bandial, however, asked the AG about the next line of action of the government after Asad Qaiser expressed their inability for holding talks.

Mansoor Awan replied they came to know through the media that the PTI had authorised its Vice Chairman Shah Mahmood Qureshi to hold talks.

The CJP reminded the AG that on the last hearing, Farooq H Naek had submitted that the Senate chairman would facilitate the talks.

The chief justice observed that the Senate chairman is not the government’s representative or of the opposition, adding that if the government was serious about negotiations it would have taken action itself.

The CJP further observed that the court could not force the political parties for holding dialogue but wanted adherence to the Constitution in order to resolve the dispute.

“We don’t need any clarification but a solution to the issue in the supreme national interest and for the protection of the Constitution,” he remarked.

Meanwhile, Farooq H Naek apprised the court that all the parties in the ruling coalition agreed to negotiate with the PTI.

Naek submitted that all the political parties have representation in the Upper House of the Parliament (Senate), adding that once the government and opposition sit together an amicable solution will be sorted out.

Holding elections on the same date was a political issue hence political leaders should be allowed to find a way out of the present dispute, he said.

PTI’s Shah Mahmood Qureshi, while appearing before the court, submitted that the court had provided an opportunity to the ruling party to sort out a solution and holding dialogues for finalising a date for the elections and his party was determined to comply with the court’s order.

He, however, informed the court that there was “no consensus” within the Pakistan Democratic Movement (PDM) on talks, adding that the government was trying to violate the Constitution.

“I am from Parliament and I have great respect for it but the government deliberately violated the Constitution as well as Rule 31 of the Rules of Procedure,” Qurashi submitted.

“I am also very embarrassed the way the ruling party ridiculed the judiciary on the floor of the House,” the PTI leader added.

“These are political talks and let’s talk on the instant case as well,” the chief justice interrupted.

“The court provided an opportunity to the political parties for the sake of national interest. [However] PTI has not been contacted [as of yet],” said Qureshi.

CJP Bandial then remarked that one has to be patient in the matter of negotiations.

Naek then told the bench that PDM chief Maulana Fazlur Rehman has been convinced for talks in the Senate.

“The court has not made an order it’s just an advice. If there is no consensus for the sake of national interest and Constitution then things will remain as they are,” said CJP Bandial. He also wondered why there was delay in proposing names of representatives for talks and asked whether the government had proposed its five names.

“Government’s names will be finalised within three to four hours. If the PTI wants then it can give three names but five [senators] are important,” said Naek.

CJP Bandial then suggested that Naek be included in the talks so he can cool down the temperature. He also remarked that it seems that the government was passing the buck on talks.

Barrister Ali Zafar, counsel for the PTI, while appearing before the court, stressed time limit for holding negotiations to develop political consensus.

Justice Bandial observed that they were not giving a timeline to the proposed committee.

Similarly, PTI Senior Vice President Fawad Chaudhry told the court that Parliament or judiciary was supreme but the Constitution is, adding that it must be adhered to.

“Even consensus of political parties cannot change the Constitution as well,” he added.

He submitted that political parties should not be mandated for finalising the date for elections and if it was allowed then no government will release the funds for holding elections.

Meanwhile, the attorney general assured the court that the government would try its utmost to get both sides of the committee to hold their first meeting on Thursday and hoped that a positive solution would be sorted out to resolve the issue.

Later, after hearing all the parties, the chief justice said that an appropriate order will be issued in the case.