Friday September 29, 2023

ECP must hold polls in 90 days: SCBA moot

Large number of lawyers attended convention, which was addressed by Sardar Latif Khosa, Aitzaz Ahsan, Abid Shahid Zubairi, others

September 08, 2023
A woman casts her vote during a general election at a polling station in Islamabad. — AFP/File
A woman casts her vote during a general election at a polling station in Islamabad. — AFP/File

ISLAMABAD: The All Pakistan Lawyers Convention on Thursday demanded holding the next general elections within 90 days.

The convention titled “Protect, Defend and Preserve the Constitution, Rule of Law and Human Rights” was held here at the Asma Jehangir Memorial Hall under the aegis of Supreme Court Bar Association (SCBA). A large number of lawyers across the country attended the convention, which was addressed by Sardar Latif Khosa, Hamid Khan, Aitzaz Ahsan, Abid Shahid Zubairi, SCBA President Shoaib Shaheen, presidents of various bar associations and representatives of lawyers organisations. However, the Pakistan Bar Council did not attend the SCBA convention.

According to a declaration, issued after the conclusion of the lawyers moot: “No caretaker government can go beyond 90 days. The General Elections are required to be held within 90 days of the dissolution of assemblies and the ECP and all other institutions required to act in aid of ECP are under constitutional duty to do so.”

It further said that no caretaker government can go beyond 90 days and becomes unconstitutional and illegal after that. The caretaker government in the Punjab and KP have already become unconstitutional and are liable to be removed, it added.

It also resolved that every institution in Pakistan is under the Constitution and cannot make even the slightest deviation from it. “The government or any of its institution or officials should not be allowed to induce, pressurise or influence any judge for obtaining desired judicial verdicts and those found attempting to do so should be strictly punished under the law,” the convention resolved.

The lawyers convention emphasised upon the importance of civilian supremacy, adherence to the Constitution, rule of law, and independence and integrity of constitutional institutions as fundamental pillars of democracy.

The convention held that the Armed Forces and their officials of all ranks, being the creation of the Constitution, are bound to act strictly in accordance with the Constitution and the law framed thereunder.

It stated every civilian is entitled to a fair trial and due process before the courts established by the Constitution and laws framed thereunder. It said trial of civilians before military courts is a complete negation of fair trial, due process and other fundamental rights guaranteed under the Constitution.

The convention further resolved that all citizens are equal before the law and no one, military, civil or judicial office holders, can claim any privileged status, immunity and concessions like free fuel, transport, electricity, gas etc, demanding that such concessions be withdrawn immediately.

It also demanded that all judicial verdicts of the courts passed in accordance with the Constitution and the law should be enforced and implemented by the Executive and its officials in letter and spirit and those found responsible for defying such verdicts should be strictly punished under the law.

“All citizens and political workers, who are illegally arrested and detained for political reasons, should be immediately released and those responsible for their illegal arrest and detention should be proceeded against in accordance with law,” the resolution demanded.

The lawyers also demanded that all citizens being kept in the custody of military or agency be transferred to the custody of relevant and concerned civil law authorities for their presentation before civilian courts, adding that all arrests, detentions and harassment of women for the last few months or so are strongly condemned and those found responsible for such acts be punished under the law. It resolved that harassment of advocates performing their professional duties is strongly condemned and those responsible be punished under the law.

It was demanded that the phenomenal rise in the prices of electricity, oil, gas, sugar and other commodities of common use be withdrawn and reduced and relief be granted to the common people of Pakistan.

The convention, while acknowledging the gravity of the economic situation, invited all stakeholders to engage in constructive dialogue to find solutions to address economic depression, offering the forum of SCBA for such discussions.

Earlier, addressing the convention, former SCBA president Hamid Khan said efforts are being made to induct people in our ranks to divide us but we are united and will remain united. He said even efforts are being made to divide the judiciary due to which differences between our judges came to the fore. He said the Constitution was destroyed during the last year and some people amongst the lawyers and ministers pushed us today to the present situation.

Hamid Khan said the Supreme Court showed courage to order for holding of elections in Punjab and even gave a date, but unfortunately, the court could not implement its order. Had Chief Justice Umer Ata Bandial shown courage and implemented his order on elections, the whole legal fraternity would have supported him and stood firm behind him. “It’s our narrative that we will not allow anyone to violate the Constitution,” Hamid Khan said.

Hamid said that unless and until the Constitution is restored and fundamental rights of citizens are ensured, they will constitute their struggle and will organise such conventions across the country.

Sardar Latif Khosa said that it was astonishing that there is no Constitution, law or judiciary in the country, adding that the Supreme Court had ordered for holding elections in Punjab on May 14 but the verdict by the country’s highest court was not implemented. “I ask the incumbent Chief Justice of Pakistan to at least give punishment of contempt of court even till rising of the court to five persons, including the then prime minister, ministers of finance, interior, law and defence, so that in future, no one dares violate the Constitution and orders of the court,” Latif Khosa said. He claimed that Imran Khan was being subjected to torture in the jail. Khosa called upon the lawyers’ community to protect the Constitution and rule of law adding that they will hold such conventions across the country.

Speaking to the convention from Lahore through a video link, Aitzaz Ahsan said the Constitution says that whereas sovereignty of the entire universe belongs to Allah Almighty and it is to be exercised by the people of Pakistan through their chosen representatives. “Now the chosen representatives are not caretaker set-up but they will come after the elections,” Aitzaz said, adding that the biggest facilitator and violator of the Constitution is CEC Sikandar Sultan Raja who defied holding elections in the constitutionally defined period.

He said Article 48(5) of the Constitution says that when the president dissolves the National Assembly, he shall appoint a date for holding elections. He said the Lahore High Court had held that Chaudhry Pervaiz Elahi should not be arrested in any case but he was rearrested. The caretaker set-up has decided to disrespect the court’s verdicts, he added.

Later, speaking on the occasion SCBA President Abid S Zubairi said that Article 6 of the Constitution — which deals with treason — should be applied on CEC Sikandar Sultan Raja for violating the top court’s order and the Constitution as he failed to hold elections within 90 days after an assembly’s dissolution.

“There is uncertainty across the country and if the courts cannot implement its orders, then these courts should be locked,” Zubairi said, adding that they filed the petition before the apex court for holding elections in 90 days but their petition was not yet taken up.

Meanwhile, the SCBA announced to observe a complete strike on September 14 across the country.

Meanwhile, Pakistan Bar Council (PBC) on late night clarified it position for not participating in the All Pakistan Lawyers Convention held by the Supreme Court Bar Association (SCBA).

In a late night statement issued here, Raza Pasha of PBC Executive Committee said that due to the behaviour of SCBA President Abid S Zubairi, they did not participate in the convention.

He further said that Zubairi and his colleagues did not participate in the convention of All Pakistan Lawyers Representatives, convened by the PBC on September 5, adding that they were invited to the event.

He further said that two days before the PBC convention, Zubairi in a press release had also condemned the PBC convention, therefore, they avoided to participate in the SCBA convention.