PML-Q leader and Punjab Assembly Speaker Pervez Elahi on Friday welcomed the Supreme Court's verdict on the Punjab chief minister election — which will now be held on July 22 — saying that "all our demands have been accepted today", while CM Hamza Shehbaz accepted the decision "with an open heart".
The apex court, after an hours-long hearing today, ruled that the Lahore High Court's (LHC) order to recount the votes cast in the April 16 Punjab chief minister election and conduct a second round of voting if required would now be implemented after by-elections on 20 Punjab Assembly seats are conducted on July 17.
The decision was reached after a consensus between the PTI, PML-Q and the Punjab government.
Talking to the media after the hearing, Elahi, who is competing for the post of Punjab's chief executive alongside PML-N's Hamza, hailed the top court's order. "A good decision has been taken today in which all our demands have been met.
"Even the chief justice appreciated that a consensus was reached amicably," he remarked.
Briefing the media on the order, the PML-Q leader said that the court decided there would be no "use of police" or "victimisation" during the July 22 elections. "Everything will be held as per the rules of the assembly."
The chief minister election, he went on, would now be held after the house was complete. "They will be conducted once the notifications for the 20 PA members and 5 reserved PTI seats are issued."
Elahi asserted that the poll would be held in the assembly, adding that he would be responsible for ensuring that the house rules and election code of conduct was followed.
He also said that the verdict was a "win for democracy and the Constitution".
Wouldn't stand in run-off election if didn't have numbers: Hamza
Separately, in a media talk, Hamza said that he had accepted the SC's decision with an "open heart".
He recalled that Punjab had been a victim of a constitutional crisis for the past three months.
"First the elections were postponed, then oath-taking was delayed. For two months, we didn't have a cabinet.
"As a politics student, I believe that the amount of crises Punjab has seen in these last three months, it can get an entry in the Guinness Book of World Records," Hamza said.
Today, during the hearing, he pointed out, "I told the court that I am a democratic person and have struggled for 17 years. I told the honourable chief justice that if I didn't have numbers for the run-off election, I wouldn't even be standing here. I would have gone home."
"I told them to hold the election right now," Hamza said, adding that the SC's decision was acceptable for him because "I have nothing to hide".
Hamza continued that during the by-elections on July 17, whichever party the public chose should be given the province's charge. "Even on that day, whatever the public chooses, I will accept it."
He, however, expressed confidence that the nation would show their support for PML-N supremo Nawaz Sharif and Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif during the by-polls as they had seen who was working for the public.
SC verdict is acceptance of PTI stance: Umar
Speaking to journalists outside the Supreme Court building, senior PTI leader and former finance minister Asad Umar hailed the top court's ordering re-election of the Punjab chief minister on July 22, saying the decision was an affirmation of the PTI's stance that Hamza Shehbaz "had never been an elected chief executive of the province".
Flanked by other senior party leaders including Fawad Chaudhry and Babar Awan, Umar said the PTI had never accepted Hamza as the "legal and constitutional CM".
The former minister noted that the top court, in its verdict, also said that no one would be allowed to influence the by-polls on 20 Punjab seats, to be held on July 17, and that directions would also be issued to relevant authorities including the ECP and Punjab inspector general of police in this regard.
He quoted the chief justice as commenting that the only solution in such kinds of crises was to reach out to the public.
"We hope the decision makers will also reach this decision soon as the country is suffering dearly due to inflation and a faltering economy," Umar added.
He said the PTI was "eagerly" waiting for the Election Commission of Pakistan to notify PTI members on five reserved seats in the Punjab Assembly.
Umar said his party had "strong reservations" that the Punjab government would utilise all resources to "influence" the by-elections on 20 seats. "The provincial government is doing this as it is sensing its defeat at the hands of Imran Khan."
Meanwhile, Chaudhry said he believed the PTI's stance had been accepted by the apex court, insisting that the people in Punjab would now be able to choose the government of their choice.
He said two remarks from the chief justice were significant. "First, he said elections are the ultimate solution to crises in parliamentary democracies. Secondly, he talked about the importance of opposition in the National Assembly."
Chaudhry heaped praise on the top court for resolving "Punjab's political crisis", saying the SC bench took up the case as "statesmen".
The PTI leader said Hamza would continue as the chief minister with "very limited powers" until July 22 but added that the PTI did not want him to remain in office till the elections for the chief minister.
"But Punjab Assembly Speaker Chaudhry Pervez Elahi had already given his consent on the matter in court," Chaudhry said.