LAHORE: Some six-and-a-half months after the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) had issued a contempt notice to Imran Khan on January 24 this year over his remarks about this body, the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaaf Chairman has again been served s similar notice on Thursday.
This development was, however, overshadowed by the non-stop media coverage of ousted Premier Nawaz Sharif’s much-publicized Islamabad to Lahore rally, and not many of Imran’s political foes had gone on to comment on it.
The Election Commission had announced this verdict on Imran Khan’s petition that had challenged its jurisdiction to hear contempt pleas.
The five-member ECP bench resumed hearing of the case in Islamabad on Thursday, ruling that it was within their powers to take action on contempt of court. However, the Election Commission adjourned the hearing of this Case till August 23.
It should be mentioned here that the ECP had reserved the verdict on Imran Khan’s petition during the previous hearing on July 25.
Appearing before the five-member bench, Imran’s lawyer Babar Awan said the ECP was not entitled to kick-start contempt proceedings as Contempt of Court Act 1976 was no more effective.
The PTI’s counsel further said the Constitution of Pakistan entitled the Supreme Court of Pakistan and high courts alone for the contempt proceedings, adding it was imperative for a contempt proceeding that the ECP had the corresponding law.
Research shows that four years ago, on July 31, 2013, the Supreme Court had issued a contempt of court notice to Imran Khan over his “critical and derogatory” remarks against the judiciary and judges of the apex court.
The Apex court had thus summoned Imran to appear before it on August 2 of the same year to explain why contempt proceedings should not be initiated against him.
The Supreme Court, in the notice issued to the PTI chief, had viewed that he had apparently had tried to incite hatred against the apex court in one of his interactions with the media.
A three-judge bench of the Supreme Court, headed by Chief Justice Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhry, had ruled: “Prima facie, it seems that Imran Khan has started a deliberate campaign to scandalize the court and bring judges into hatred, ridicule or contempt.”
At the press conference on July 26, 2013, the PTI chief had condemned the role of the judiciary and the Election Commission of Pakistan, and termed it shameful. He had alleged that the May 11, 2013 general elections had been rigged because of the role played by the two institutions. The contempt of case against Imran Khan was later discharged by Apex court.
It is noteworthy that the Pakistan Bar Council Thursday have alleged that the recent public speeches of disqualified Nawaz Sharif and his loyalists as were an open defiance to the Supreme Court orders of sending Sharif packing on July 28 last.
Apart from Imran Khan, numerous Pakistani politicians (excluding Premier Zulfikar Ali Bhutto, Nawaz Sharif and Yousaf Raza Gillani) have been issued contempt of court notoces by the Supreme Court in the past.
Here follow some details in this context:
In December 2011, the Supreme Court of Pakistan had issued contempt of court notices to another noted PPP stalwart and a former Law Minister, Babar Awan, for his outburst against the premiere judicial body of the country.
In June 2012, during the course of a heated argument, Babar Awan had also raised objections over the Supreme Court's proceedings in the contempt of court case against him.
In December 2012, the then MQM chief Altaf Hussain was issued a contempt of court notice by the Supreme Court, after he had called the court’s remarks "unconstitutional" and "undemocratic."
Altaf had stated: "The Supreme Court does not have the authority to say that constituencies should be formed in such a way that a single-party majority does not exist."
Altaf Hussain had claimed the observation was a well thought out plan to break the MQM’s majority mandate and speculated that this would spark ethnic discord.
The Supreme Court had called for the delimitation of new constituencies in Karachi.
In his telephonic address, Altaf had viewed that the court judgment actually amounted to contempt for the mandate given by the people of Karachi and presented an "open enmity" for the metropolitan.
The then chief justice had said that Altaf's speech was not only contemptuous but also held a note of threat.
Altaf was ordered to appear before the court in person on January 7, 2013, but he had later apologized.
And quite recently, in July 2017, the Supreme Court had indicted PML-N Senator Nehal Hashmi for contempt of court.
Nehal Hashmi was accused of threatening members of the top court and members of the Panamagate Joint Investigation Team and their families.
According to the charge-sheet, Hashmi’s act tended to “scandalize the court and bring the authority of the court into hatred, ridicule and disrespect.”
He was charged with contempt of court under Article 204(2) of the Constitution of Pakistan, read with Section 3 of the Contempt of Court Ordinance, 2003.
The senator drew the apex court’s ire after he delivered a fiery speech at a private function and threatened to make miserable the lives of the people who ‘have held the Sharif family accountable.’
The Supreme Court had taken suo motu notice of the speech while the ruling PML-N had suspended his party membership and asked him to resign from the Senate.
Hashmi had, however, retracted his resignation days after submitting it before the Senate chairman – a move condemned by the ruling party which later expelled him for violating the party discipline.
On June 22 this year, the Supreme Court’s three-judge bench, overseeing the Panamagate JIT’s proceedings, expressed dissatisfaction over Hashmi’s reply to its show-cause notice as the senator had not shown any regret or remorse for delivering the “hate speech”.
It goes without saying that the Senator had offered an “unqualified and unconditional apology” for his speech against the judiciary and the Joint Investigation Team, which was probing the offshore assets of the ruling family.
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