LAHORE/KARACHI: Judges who disqualified PML-N supremo Nawaz Sharif should not hear cases related to the party, Interior Minister Rana Sanaullah said on Saturday as coalition partners toughened their line in the wake of the Supreme Court order to Hamza Shehbaz to stay on as a “trustee” Punjab chief minister.

The minister was apparently referring to Justice Ijazul Ahsan, who is a member of the three-judge bench hearing Chaudhry Parvez Elahi’s appeal against Hamza’s re-election and who was also part of the five-judge apex court bench that disqualified former prime minister Nawaz Sharif from holding public office in a landmark decision on the Panama Papers case in 2017.

Talking to the media, the interior minister also requested the chief justice to constitute full benches to hear party-related cases, a demand echoed by the ruling coalition partners.

Referring to the Supreme Court’s ruling in the Article 63A case, he said the party suffered because of it, as it led to the disqualification of 25 lawmakers and subsequently, by-polls and then the re-election for the Punjab chief minister.

He also said the Friday’s ruling by the Punjab Assembly’s deputy speaker came in favour of Hamza Shehbaz not because of Chaudhry Shujaat’s letter but due to a Supreme Court ruling.

PPP seeks suo motu on ‘attempts to storm’ SC Lahore registry

Chaudhry Shujaat’s letter has been a bone of contention since Friday’s vote as it apparently asked PML-Q lawmakers to back Hamza Shehbaz and thus prompted Deputy Speaker Dost Mohammad Mazari to reject 10 votes of the party for going against the party line.

Taking a dig at PTI chairman Imran Khan for misleading the nation “through lies and baseless propaganda”, the interior minister said Mr Khan had been alleging for the last three days that his men were being purchased, but the number of votes in the Punjab Assembly for chief minister’s election had exposed his propaganda as not a single member of either side voted against their party.

The PTI chief was an untrustworthy person and was pursuing the agenda of dividing the nation and misleading youth, the interior minister said.

He also urged the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) to immediately announce the verdict in the PTI foreign funding case “as it was clear that [Imran Khan] Niazi took money from abroad to destabilise the country and a legal action should be now initiated against him”.

The interior minister said that as a lawyer, he believed that courts should be respected, but added that Imran Khan had used derogatory language against courts while they were opened for him at midnight.

He reiterated that the PTI chairman was a troublemaker and therefore appropriate Rangers force had been provided to provinces to deal with any untoward violence in case a decision comes against Mr Khan’s party.

PPP calls for SC full bench

Echoing their coalition partners’ demand that a Supreme Court full bench hear the case against the Punjab Assembly deputy speaker’s ruling, Sindh Information Minister Sharjeel Memon and Adviser to Chief Minister on Law Barrister Murtaza Wahab urged the Supreme Court to take suo motu notice of attempts by some PTI supporters to scale the walls of the apex court’s Lahore registry on Friday night.

Mr Memon told reporters at a presser at Frere Hall: “These people [the PTI] want decisions in their favour by putting pressure on institutions,” adding that the Constitution and law were equal for all.

He alleged that PTI chairman Imran Khan wanted to keep the court, establishment and the ECP under pressure to achieve his objectives.

The Sindh information minister also asserted that Mr Khan’s criticism of the ECP stemmed from his fear of being exposed in the foreign funding case.

He said the PTI chief was earlier using delaying tactics in the case but was not directly targeting the election commission.

“The purpose of speaking against the election commissioner is that if the decision comes against him, he can say that the decision is against him because he was against the election commissioner,” Mr Memon added.

Referring to a letter by PTI leader Asad Umar, which led to the disqualification of 25 party members, Mr Memon said the PTI now considered it wrong to take a similar action based on Chaudhary Shujaat’s letter.

“There can’t be one decision for the PTI and another for the rest of the country,” Mr Memon said.

Mr Wahab said the PTI was seeking anarchy in the country. He recalled that when seven votes were rejected during the election of PPP leader Yousaf Raza Gilani as the Senate chairman, the PTI said the presiding officer’s ruling could not be challenged.

He said that no one was above the Constitution and the PTI chief should be punished for “repeatedly mocking the Constitution and laws”.

Published in Dawn, July 24th, 2022

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