Government to judiciary: ‘bench fixing’ is a crime like match fixing is

— Maryam questions Supreme Court’s description of Hamza Shehbaz as ‘trustee chief minister’

ISLAMABAD: Heads of the ruling parties on Monday “highlighted” the importance of justice dispensation in society without any discrimination for achieving required goals of national development and prosperity, as they lambasted the judiciary, accusing it of being biased towards the Pakistan Democratic Movement (PDM).

The ruling coalition has demanded the Supreme Court form a full court bench to hear the Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI) and Pervaiz Elahi’s petition against Punjab Assembly Deputy Speaker Dost Muhammad Mazari’s rejection of 10 votes cast for the chief minister.

On Friday, Mazari rejected 10 votes cast by lawmakers of the Pakistan Muslim League-Quaid (PML-Q), citing a letter written by party chief Chaudhry Shujaat Hussain and a recent ruling of the Supreme Court on Article 63-A of the Constitution, resulting in Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) vice president Hamza Shehbaz being elected chief minister.

Within hours, the PTI and Elahi had filed a petition before the Supreme Court seeking a reversal of the order.

The following morning, Chief Justice Umar Ata Bandial formed a three-member bench — comprising himself and Justices Ijaz ul-Ahsan and Munib Akhtar — to hear the case and commenced hearings.

Today, while addressing a news conference along with members of the federal cabinet and leadership of the PDM component parties, PML-N vice president Maryam Nawaz quoted a conversation frequently attributed to Winston Churchill but the status of which is contested among historians.

During World War II, when the Luftwaffe (a component of the German air force) was wreaking havoc over London with its incessant bombing attacks, then the British prime minister Winston Churchill took cognizance of the heavy casualties and economic devastation. He asked: “Are the courts functioning?” When told that the judges were dispensing justice as normal, Churchill replied: “Thank God. If the courts are working, nothing can go wrong.”

Nawaz said it was unfortunate that during the past few years, there was a series of “startling decisions by the judiciary”, adding there could be a ‘wrong decision’ but it should not have consistency as the court verdicts left a deep impact on society for decades.

She said she had been advised by “sympathisers” not to hold the press talk as it would affect her appeal in the Panama Papers case that was being heard by the Islamabad High Court (IHC) and was in its final stages.

“However, I said that the people’s representative has to think beyond themselves and think about the people.”

“I can write an essay praising the judiciary but one wrong decision will dismiss the entire [argument],” she said. On the other hand, a decision based on justice could withstand criticism, she added.

She said Hamza Shehbaz won the office of Punjab’s chief minister in the run-off election, but the PTI approached the Lahore Registry of Supreme Court, over jumping the court walls which opened at midnight despite the day being a holiday.

It was ironic the registrar waited for the filing of the petition that wasn’t even ready by that time, she added. “It never happens in the filing of petitions.”

Nawaz expressed concern over the existing system of petition filing and the constitution of court benches.

She recalled that in the Senate chairman’s election as many as six votes were rejected, and subsequently, Sadiq Sanjrani was elected as the chairman. The court was approached which said that ruling of the presiding officer ‘cannot be challenged.”

Contrary to it, she said, in the chief minister’s election, Deputy Speaker Dost Muhammad Mazari rejected 10 votes of Pakistan Muslim League-Quaid (PML-Q) on the advice of party head Chaudhry Shujaat Hussain, but in that case, the PTI was being entertained fully.

Moving on, the PML-N leader said that the court’s interpretation of the constitution changes when there is a change in the party head — the decisions are different for Imran Khan and PML-N supremo Nawaz Sharif.

Nawaz said that if the party’s head is Nawaz, he will be convicted on a “trivial issue” such as the residence permit (iqama) — referring to the Panama Papers case.

Nawaz said that during former prime minister Khan’s tenure, the country witnessed a downfall in all sectors and the courts played “an important” role in that.

The PML-N leader asked which crime had Khan not committed; he was involved in inciting violence, attacking property, and in the attack on Parliament and the Pakistan Television.

“Did any court take suo motu notice against Khan? Are the suo motu reserved only for the PML-N and its allies?” she asked.

Criticising the judges for the recent remarks during the “Azadi March” hearing, Nawaz said that despite PTI blatantly violating the court’s orders, the party was still given leverage.

“After he blatantly violated the orders, the judge said that maybe he didn’t receive the order; they also said maybe they burnt the green belt to save themselves from tear gas.”

GOVT BEING ‘RESTRAINED’ FROM OUTSIDE

PDM president Maulana Fazl ur-Rehman said the government sought a full court bench on the matter.

He said the formation of full court bench was demand of the justice and there should not be any controversy in its verdicts in the best interest of the country.

Seconding Nawaz, Fazl said the government wanted to fortify the judiciary but the decisions should speak for themselves.

He said the government was given a mandate by the people but was not being allowed to function properly.

He said the people’s confidence in the country’s institutions needed to be restored but the latter should also assess their role and hold themselves accountable as well.

The PDM chief said: “We want to make country economically stable. We all are on one page to set the economy on the right track but let us do it.”

Responding to a query, he said the country was facing serious economic crisis due to the previous regime’s bad governance but the coalition government saved it from bankruptcy and brought it on the road to progress.

‘GRAND JIRGA

Khalid Hussain Magsi, the parliamentary leader of Balochistan Awami Party (BAP), suggested that all stakeholders should call a grand jirga to decide the future of the country as “we have failed to put Pakistan on the right track”.

He said that the election resulted in uncertainty in the country. “As a consequence, the country has started resembling a tribe where life is marred by anarchy and the state operates without any destination,” he added.

Magsi endorsed the view of other allies for making a full court bench of the Supreme Court for hearing the petitions. “All institutions working for the country should play their vital role in the development and progress of the state,” he concluded.

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