• Coalition wants top court to club together SCBA review petition on 63A, all related pleas
• Leadership of ruling alliance to address presser before appearance

LAHORE: Top leaders from the ruling alliance on Sunday decided to appear along with their lawyers before the Chief Justice of Pakistan-led bench of the Supreme Court, seized with the case related to the Punjab chief minister’s election, when the apex court resumes hearing on Monday.

The leaders of the ruling coalition also decided to formally file a petition with SC registrar’s office seeking for­mation of a full court bench for hearing of all related petitions, including the Supreme Court Bar Association’s (SCBA) petition seeking review of the SC’s earlier opinion on Arti­cle 63-A. They will address a presser in the morning before appearing in court with the same request, according to a statement by federal Infor­mation Minister Marriyum Aurangzeb.

A source privy to the development said Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif, former president Asif Ali Zardari or Pakistan Peoples Party chairman Bilawal Bhutto-Zardari, Jamiat Ulema-i-Islam-Fazl (JUI-F) chief Maulana Fazlur Rehman and leaders of other coalition partners would be part of the leadership that will appear before Chief Justice Umar Ata Bandial-led three-member bench.

The statement said the PPP, PML-N and Jamiat Ulema-i-Islam-Fazl would appear before the SC bench, while the Muttahida Qaumi Movement-Pakistan (MQM-P), Balochistan National Party (BNP), Balochistan Awami Party (BAP) and other allied parties would also be among the petitioners. “These are very important national, political and constitutional matters and the national economy is facing bankruptcy and the masses unemployment and poverty due to the political instability caused by them,” it explained.

The issue emerged when Punjab Assembly Deputy Speaker Dost Mohammad Mazari on July 22 declared that votes of the PML-Q lawmakers in the runoff poll for the office of chief minister could not be counted as they were cast in violation of their party head Chaudhry Shujaat’s directions.

Mr Mazari said he based his decision on the recent Supreme Court judgement on the April 16th CM’s election in which 25 Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf MPAs had voted for PML-N leader Hamza Shehbaz against the PTI chief Imran Khan’s written directions. The SC had ruled the 25 votes could not be counted, while the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) on the basis of the court verdict later de-seated all those lawmakers who went against their PTI chief’s directions.

Parvez Elahi, who was declared unsuccessful in the race for Punjab’s top slot, challenged the deputy speaker’s ruling before the SC’s Lahore registry in the early hours of Saturday. It was immediately fixed for Saturday afternoon and CJP Umar Ata Bandial during the hearing remarked that prima facie the deputy speaker’s ruling was against the SC decision on the Article 63-A reference. The court then made Hamza a “trustee” chief minister until Monday noon, directing him not to take any major official decision that could politically benefit him.

Since the Saturday’s hearing, the PML-N has publicly begun questioning the “partiality” of a particular bench of the SC and is pressing on constitution of a full court bench for a verdict ‘acceptable to all’.

In reference to apparently two different approaches of the SC on the defection issue, Law Minister Azam Nazir Tarar said there could be “no two laws on a similar issue”. He told a presser on Sunday that the issue would be resolved for good if full court bench heard the case.

About possible ouster of Hamza from power by the apex court, the law minister said that if a public representative was to be sent home by a court, then “justice, transparency and independence” demanded a full court bench hear the matter. “There is no solution to the issue other than a full court bench.”

Published in Dawn, July 25th, 2022

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