The Supreme Court on Saturday allowed Hamza Shehbaz to stay as a “trustee” Punjab chief minister until the hearing resumes on Monday, as it heard a plea filed by PML-Q leader Chaudhry Parvez Elahi challenging Punjab Assembly (PA) Deputy Speaker Dost Mohammad Mazari calling the chief minister’s re-election in Hamza’s favour a day earlier.
The decision was taken as a three-member bench comprising Chief Justice of Pakistan (CJP) Umar Ata Bandial, Justice Ijazul Ahsan and Justice Munib Akhter, took up the petition at the SC’s Lahore registry.
Here are main developments that took place during the hearing:
- SC orders Hamza to remain as “trustee” CM till Monday.
- Bars Hamza from using CM powers for political gains.
- CJP remarks that deputy speaker’s ruling was prima facie against Article 63-A verdict.
- Court summons Punjab deputy speaker, who sends lawyer.
- Notices also issued to Hamza, attorney general, Punjab advocate general and Punjab chief secretary.
- Proceedings briefly paused due to rush of people.
- The hearing will resume in Islamabad on Monday.
In its order after the day-long hearing, the court said: “Hamza will continue to work as a trustee chief minister till Monday.”
It ruled that Hamza should work as per the Constitution and law during the time period. “As the chief minister, Hamza Shehbaz will not use his powers for political gains,” it stressed.
Separately, at one point during the hearing, Justice Bandial remarked that prime facie, the deputy speaker’s ruling was against the apex court’s verdict in the Article 63-A reference.
Subsequently, Mazari’s lawyer Irfan Qadir, who appeared before the court after the deputy speaker failed to show up, asked for more time and said he wanted to submit a written response. The court granted him time till the next hearing on Monday.
Meanwhile, Elahi’s lawyer, Barrister Ali Zafar, requested the court to at least prevent Hamza from forming a cabinet, on which the court said he could form one but it should be as small as possible.
The PML-Q lawyer requested the court to hear the matter tomorrow as well but the court said if the arguments were not completed, the matter would go to Monday anyway so the hearing will be in Islamabad on Monday.
Mazari fails to appear in court
Earlier, the Punjab Assembly deputy speaker failed to appear before the Supreme Court (SC), sending Qadir instead.
The court had summoned Mazari at 2:30pm and had asked him to specify the paragraph in its opinion on Article 63-A on which he had based his ruling in the CM election.
In its summons to Mazari, the court also observed that it appeared that when he handed Hamza victory, reliance was placed on the court’s May 17 order, in which it ruled defecting lawmakers’ votes won’t be counted.
“The view expressed by the deputy speaker does not give or pinpoint the precise observation made by this court in its aforesaid order on which reliance has been placed,” it said.
It also observed the matter “seems more likely to be a controversy regarding the proper understanding or comprehension of the statement of law in our aforesaid judgment rather than of an interpretation as such of a Constitutional provision”.
Mazari’s lawyer submitted the deputy speaker’s vakalatnama (power of attorney). When Justice Ahsan questioned why Mazari had not appeared, his counsel Irfan Qadir replied that he was present to assist the court.
Notices issued to Hamza, others
Separately, the bench also issued notices to Punjab Chief Minister Hamza Shehbaz, Attorney General for Pakistan Ashtar Ausaf, Advocate General of Punjab Shahzad Shaukat and the Punjab chief secretary.
At the outset of the hearing, Elahi’s counsel Barrister Ali Zafar informed the court that in the run-off election yesterday Hamza secured 179 votes against his client’s 186.
But the deputy speaker rejected 10 votes of PML-Q lawmakers on the grounds of a letter, purportedly sent by PML-Q President Shujaat, the lawyer said.
During the hearing, Elahi informed the court that Hamza had taken oath as the chief minister.
However, Chief Justice Bandial responded: “It does not matter. We have to discuss the law and the Constitution.”
The court then summoned Mazari and adjourned the hearing till 2:30pm. When the hearing resumed afterwards, Advocate General Punjab Shahzad Shaukat presented his arguments.
Proceedings paused briefly
Meanwhile, the proceedings, being held in courtroom 1, were momentarily paused after the chief justice observed that a large number of people were present in the courtroom.
He said it would resume when only relevant people were remaining.
During the rush and chaos, glass at the entrance of courtroom 1 broke.
Subsequently, arrangements were made in courtroom 3 for other lawyers and people to watch the proceedings on a screen to reduce the rush.
A number of PTI leaders were present at the court, including Asad Umar, Fawad Chaudhry, Sibtain Khan, Usman Buzdar and Zain Qureshi.
Maryam calls decision ‘one-sided’
Meanwhile, PML-N Vice President Maryam Nawaz said that the party would no longer “bow its head” in front of “one-sided” decisions, alleging that the “house of justice came under the pressure of bullying and threats”.
“It repeatedly makes specific decisions through the same bench, negates its own decisions, [and] puts all the weight in the same scale,” she tweeted.
The PML-N leader added that a series of political chaos and instability would begin with this court decision.
Separately, Minister for Planning Ahsan Iqbal said that people were asking if the judiciary should be asked to take “full responsibility for managing the economy and economic consequences of its decisions”.
Case ‘simple and clear’ now: Habib
Outside the court, PTI leader Farrukh Habib told reporters that the government’s side had no responses or credible arguments to present in the portion of the hearing he attended.
He said the case had become very “simple and clear” after today’s hearing and Elahi would be the “legal and constitutional” chief minister once the court verdict came.
Habib said Hamza was restored only as a “trustee” chief minister so the province’s governance was not impacted and his oath today was withheld.
‘Imran to announce next plan of action after SC’s decision’
Earlier, before the hearing commenced, PTI leader Asad Umar said the apex court’s ruling on the matter was expected today, after which Imran would announce the next plan of action for all Pakistanis who believed in “Haqiqi Azadi” (true freedom).
He described the deputy speaker’s ruling as the “last hiccup of a dying system in which [some] families have been imposed on Pakistan”.
Former foreign minister PTI leader Shah Mahmood Qureshi, who was also present on the occasion, criticised Zardari and said Shujaat’s letter had no “constitutional value” as it had not been circulated among lawmakers.
“That the deputy speaker kept it in his pocket shows there’s mala fide,” he remarked.
Who decides party line?
After the SC summoned Mazari, Umar separately tweeted that the court had made the matter “very simple” now.
“[The court] has summoned the deputy speaker at 2pm. Let us also know where the Supreme Court said in its ruling that the party chief had the authority to give instructions regarding voting. The Constitution is very clear that it is the authority of the parliamentary party,” he said.
PTI leader Fawad Chaudhry also criticised Deputy Speaker Mazari for his ruling, saying: “[The] deputy speaker has not relied on any parliamentary tradition and has actually weakened parliament by making parliamentary party redundant. [The] only way we can change the course is democracy within parties, [and the] empowerment of parliamentary party is a leap forward in this direction.”
However, Interior Minister Rana Sanaullah defended the deputy speaker’s ruling, saying that the PTI had celebrated when the votes of its 25 dissident lawmakers, who had backed Hamza in the April 16 election for the Punjab CM’s slot, were discounted in light of the SC’s decision.
“When our votes were rejected, Asad Umar had said PTI chairperson Imran Khan had instructed all party members to vote for Parvez Elahi. So is Chaudhry Shujaat Hussain not the head of the PML-Q?” he questioned.
Ruling coalition demands full court
Later, a statement issued by Information Minister Marriyum Aurangzeb that all parties part of the ruling coalition demanded from the CJP to constitute a full court for hearing petitions regarding Hamza’s election.
However, an application has yet to be filed.
The statement said in order to meet the requirements of justice, a full courtof the apex court should hear the Supreme Court Bar Association’s petition seeking a review of the SC’s opinion on Article 63-A, Elahi’s petition seeking Hamza’s disqualification and other relevant pleas. It added that the petitions should be fixed so that they are taken up and decided upon at a single hearing as this is an “important national, political and constitutional matter”.
“A heavy price of the political instability arising out of this [situation] is being paid in the form the risk of bankruptcy, unemployment and poverty,” the statement read.
In the statement, it was alleged that Imran was “deliberately creating anarchy to evade accountability, hide his corruption and come to power through backdoor [means]”.
In an apparent reference to the PTI, the statement stated that an “arrogant and fascist entity that violated the Constitution” was trying to “blur the boundaries separating the powers of the legislature, judiciary and executive, which were clearly defined in the Constitution”.
“Actually, they want Pakistan’s Constitution … and democratic system to go bankrupt,” the statement read, adding that “this mentality and behaviour was acting as a termite for the state’s system”.
The statement said all parties part of the ruling coalition vowed not to make any compromise on the Constitution, democracy and people’s right to rule.
“All allies will resolutely fight fascism at every forum,” the statement read.
Separately, Interior Minister Rana Sanaullah also demanded that a full court should hear the CM election case.
“I request the chief justice of Pakistan that the principles of justice, as per democratic traditions, should be applied in our case as well,” he said while addressing a press conference.
He called for the apex court’s interpretation of Article 63-A to be considered during the case, the same way it was on PTI’s petition.
The interior minister alleged that Imran was out to spread hatred among the public and wanted to divide the country.
“These people started riots yesterday. They forcefully entered government buildings and broke into the office of the Supreme Court’s Lahore registry,” the minister said.
He added that it was extremely “disappointing” that instead of taking notice of the trespassing and disrespect, the deputy registrar accepted the petition.
‘Pressure on Shujaat’
Meanwhile, PML-Q leader Moonis Elahi while talking to the media outside the court said that the letter Shujaat had sent to the deputy speaker instructed the party MPAs not to vote for either of the candidates.
“During our conversation yesterday, he said that he wanted Parvez Elahi to become the chief minister but not as Imran Khan’s candidate.
“To this, I told him that in this case, Parvez Elahi would lose the elections,” Moonis continued, adding that he had requested Shujaat to reconsider his decision but “there was a lot of pressure on him”.
‘Country can’t bear Zardari politics’
Before the hearing, Fawad said the country could not bear “Zardari politics” — an apparent reference to reports of PPP co-chairperson Asif Ali Zardari’s attempts to garner Shujaat’s support for Hamza ahead of the election.
Speaking to the media in Lahore, Fawad said: “This country needs political values. If you have to do Zardari-style politics … then there’s no need to hold elections. Hold auctions instead.
“Whoever makes a bigger bid may buy the seat,” he added.
The PTI leader went on to say that after the deputy speaker’s ruling and the “way the public mandate was stolen, the political environment in the country is like the one after a war”.
He further claimed that the ruling coalition had “ruined” the Constitution.
Fawad said all senior lawyers in the country were in consensus that the deputy speaker’s ruling was against the law and Constitution. “It is not just against the law and Constitution, but also against our political values and democracy,” he added.
Turning his guns on Shujaat, Fawad claimed the PML-Q president did not want to support a PTI-backed candidate.
“Then [PML-Q’s] Salik Hussain and Tariq Cheema should resign as they had contested the election as the PTI candidate. They couldn’t even have been elected as a councillor if they did not have the PTI’s support,” Fawad said.
He alleged that Salik and Cheema had held Shujaat hostage at night and got his thumb impression on the letter sent to Mazari.
Fawad further said Shujaat had been ill for a long time and had Parkinson’s disease. “So we all know his decision-making ability is very limited.”
He called for the court to summon the deputy speaker and frame charges of contempt against him.
The PTI leader also asked the “powers who have imposed these dwarfs on Pakistan to stop playing with Pakistan”.
When a reporter asked him whether his party had a plan B in case the SC dismissed Elahi’s plea, he replied: “We don’t have a plan B. It’s the people who have a plan B … If justice is not delivered, people will carve out their own path.”
Later, Imran posted on Twitter that in just over three months, the “Zardari - Sharifs’ mafia has brought the country to its knees politically and economically, simply to save their illegally accumulated wealth amassed over 30 yrs of plundering Pakistan”.
“My question is, how long will state institutions continue to allow this?” he questioned.
He added: “I can say with certainty after my interaction with our nation and their response to my call for Haqeeqi Azadi that the people of Pakistan have had enough and will not allow these mafias to continue their loot and plunder. We are not far from [the] Sri Lanka moment when our public pours out into streets.”
During the election on Friday, Mazari rejected all 10 votes cast by the PML-Q on the pretext that they had violated the orders of their party chief, Chaudhry Shujaat Hussain, citing a letter he received from the patriarch which said he was asking his party lawmakers to back Hamza.
After counting the polled votes, the deputy speaker announced that Elahi bagged 186 votes, while Hamza could get 179 votes. However, he refrained from declaring Elahi the chief minister.
Instead, he indicated that as party chief, Chaudhry Shujaat Hussain’s instructions to PML-Q members to vote for Hamza instead of Elahi held greater sway.
The deputy speaker then announced that Hamza had won the election of chief minister, since the 10 deducted votes reduced Elahi’s tally to 176, while Hamza remained on top with 179.
In his petition, Elahi requested the court to hold the deputy speaker’s ruling leading to Hamza’s re-election as “bogus and false”.
“Hamza Shehbaz may kindly be declared disqualified as the Punjab chief minister/ member of the provincial assembly,” the petition read.
It requested the court to declare the deputy speaker’s decision to discard the votes of 10 PML-Q lawmakers on grounds of Article 63-A of the Constitution as “unconstitutional”.
Instead, the petition said, the court may declare Elahi the “lawful returned candidate” and the PML-Q leader be allowed to take oath as the Punjab chief minister.
The petition further stated that Hamza should be restrained from taking the oath as the chief minister. It is pertinent to mention that Hamza was administered the oath of office by Punjab Governor Baleeghur Rehman earlier today.
Additional reporting by Javed Hussain and Muhammad Taimoor