Reiterating its demand of a full court bench to hear all cases related to the Supreme Court’s interpretation of Article 63A of the Constitution—including that of PMLQ’s Pervaiz Elahi against the election of Punjab C.M. Hamza Shehbaz—the ruling coalition on Monday said cases of national importance cannot be repeatedly decided by the same three people.
“It cannot happen that only three people decide this country’s fate,” said Foreign Minister Bilawal Bhutto-Zardari, representing the Pakistan Peoples Party. “That only they decide whether this country is run through a democratic system, an elected system or a selected system,” he said, stressing that the coalition government’s sole demand was the formation of a full bench to hear the case related to the Punjab chief minister’s election.
Decrying that “some powers” who wanted a “one unit” system had difficulty accepting that Pakistan was moving toward democracy, he accused PTI Chairman Imran Khan of trampling on the rights of provinces during his regime, adding this had proven disastrous for the country and the economy. Emphasizing that the incumbent rulers’ democratic struggles had compelled the country’s institutions to change their “controversial, unconstitutional and undemocratic role,” he said the past three months had proven that “some” were still trying to keep Imran Khan at the forefront of politics.
Claiming that this campaign was a “conspiracy” against the country’s economic progress and democratic journey, he vowed to not let it succeed. “We want institutions to remain uncontroversial,” he said, adding that “everyone” would accept the verdict if a full court rendered its judgment. “If the same three judges give a decision, then we will not be able to control the political situation that will develop in this country,” he said, adding, “It cannot be possible that three people change Pakistan’s 1973 Constitution with just the stroke of a pen.”
Commencing the press conference, Pakistan Muslim League (Nawaz) leader Maryam Nawaz said the institutions were attracting criticism through their own decisions and there was no room for dissent if the right decisions were taken.
She noted that ever since Hamza had been elected chief minister, PTI leaders had been trying to get him ousted through the court—and this time they had jumped over the walls of the top court, a reference to PTI workers clambering over the top court’s walls ahead of the filing of the petition against the chief minister’s election.
Recalling that the registrar had not only opened the doors of the top court late at night to accept the PTI’s petition, she said it had also given “sufficient time” to the party to draft its appeal. “This is not what happens in our justice system,” she said, pointing out that the common man usually had to wait months for a hearing. Referring to the court summoning Punjab Assembly Deputy Speaker Dost Muhammad Mazari, she questioned why similar calls were not made when then-National Assembly Deputy Speaker Qasim Suri had violated the Constitution.
Describing the Supreme Court’s policy to appoint the same three judges on all cases related to the PTI as “bench-fixing,” Maryam said this was a crime similar to “match-fixing” and the court should take suo motu notice of this. She lamented that the court’s interpretation of the Constitution appeared to change depending on the party head—they decided differently for Imran Khan and PML-N chief Nawaz Sharif.
If the party head is Nawaz, she continued, he could be convicted on a “trivial issue” such as an iqama and not taking salary from his son, while Khan could be allowed to continue all his activities without hindrance. She claimed there was no crime Khan had not committed—whether incitement, destruction of public property or attacks on state infrastructure such as Parliament and PTV. “Did any court take suo motu notice against Khan? Are the suo motus only for the PMLN and its allies?” she asked.
Referring to the PTI’s Azadi March, when it refused to stage a protest at a designated point in Islamabad, she said Khan had blatantly violated court orders and the judges had merely said “maybe he didn’t receive the order; they also said maybe they [PTI] burnt the green belt to save themselves from tear gas.” Similarly, she said, courts were opened at night to grant bail to for former federal minister Shireen Mazari but had not even heard her bail petition for five months.
“The country is not under control, the global community is not happy with us; this is all due to Khan and the court’s decisions,” Maryam added.
Maulana Fazlur Rehman, chief of the Jamiat Ulema-e-Islam (Fazl), said he did not expect justice from the bench comprising Chief Justice Umar Ata Bandial, Justice Ijazul Ahsan and Justice Munib Akhtar and fully back Maryam’s concerns. “That’s the reason we have been demanding a full bench to hear the case so that justice can be ensured,” he said, stressing that all institutions should introspect and overcome their drawbacks through self-accountability.
“Institutions meddle in political affairs to protect the state but do they ever think that the state is weakened due to their interference?” he asked. “You are sitting behind a wall. You may decide whatever you want … and make politicians the culprit in the eyes of the public and defame them. But hold yourself accountable,” he added. “We want to make country’s future brighter but for that, stability for the government is important,” he said. “If you expect us to not create any difficulties for you, then it is also your obligation to not create difficulties for us,” he stressed.
Balochistan Awami Party (BAP) leader Khalid Magsi supported the views of his party’s coalition partners, warning the country was heading toward “civil war.” Urging all institutions to stick to their own ambits, he said this was the only way to improve the country’s situation.
“If a three-member bench decides the matter, no one will be satisfied,” he warned, adding that if the judges believed they should have a say in the country’s direction, they should set up a grand Jirga with all stakeholders to define the country’s future.
PMLQ leader Tariq Bashir Cheema also reiterated calls for a full court bench, as this would finally settle the matter.
Awami National Party (ANP)’s Aimal Wali Khan, meanwhile, said that the Supreme Court’s order to declare Hamza a “trustee” chief minister on the basis of the PMLQ’s refusal to adhere to Chaudhry Shujaat’s instructions had negated the need for a party president. “The parliamentary leader can have all the power,” he said, adding that under law the party president had the authority to make all “major decisions.”
National Democratic Movement Chairman Mohsin Dawar said no country could function without supremacy of law. Lamenting over the apex court’s decision to ban the entry of political leaders in court premises, he said this was an indictment of the rule of law. Stressing that Pakistan’s only binding document was the Constitution, he said this kept the nation unified. “If we will not uphold the Constitution supreme then it may create chaos in the county,” he added.