Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif on Wednesday accused the judiciary of having “double standards” with their treatment of different political parties.
The prime minister’s criticism of the judiciary came a day after the Supreme Court struck down Punjab Assembly Deputy Speaker Dost Muhammad Mazari’s ruling and removed his son and fellow PML-N leader Hamza Shehbaz as the province’s chief minister.
Addressing a session of the National Assembly (NA), Shehbaz said that while he respected the courts, he was also an elected representative and questioned “when the truth would be spoken, if not today.”
“I ask that there was a time when a former chief justice took suo motu [notices] day and night … when the courts summon then I think we should go with great respect … but if you have to decide then it should be on the basis of truth and justice. It can’t happen that you treat me one way and treat someone else differently.”
He reiterated that he greatly respected the judiciary and was only talking about “double standards”, adding that it was his right to do so as an elected representative of the people.
The prime minister said that during the previous PTI government’s tenure “no one took notice” of various scandals such wheat and sugar crisis, the violation of its agreement with the International Monetary Fund as well as irregularities in the Peshawar BRT project.
“Who planned to attack this parliament in 2014, who hung dirty clothes on the building of the Supreme Court, who asked the public to set fire to electricity bills … no one took notice, everyone was quiet.”
PM Shehbaz posited the question that how long could such “double standards continue”.
He noted that the apex court had deemed the actions of former NA speaker Qasim Suri in March as a violation of the Constitution.
“[That was a] very good thing but no one summoned him. But the Punjab Assembly [deputy] speaker does an act and he was called to the court,” Shehbaz said, referring to recent proceedings in the Supreme Court over the deputy speaker’s ruling and conduct during Friday’s Punjab chief minister election.
PM Shehbaz said the Constitution outlined the role and jurisdiction of the courts and other institutions, within which they were supposed to work. He lamented that in the 75 years that had passed, the Constitution was tampered with and martial law established, causing Pakistan to break in two and impeding democratic growth.
The prime minister lambasted the PTI government for its economic performance during its 3.5 years, adding that the coalition government had resolved to come in power to save the country from defaulting.
“Did we come [in power] through a backdoor? This is the first time someone didn’t attack the Prime Minister House but [the change occurred] through the power of vote, in accordance with the law. They changed that worst government and accepted the challenge [to rule].”
Parliament has to defend itself: Bilawal
Foreign Minister Bilawal Bhutto Zardari, in his address to the National Assembly, stressed the need for judicial reforms, saying it was the need of the hour and that the government must defend the role of the parliament.
He underlined that the parliament’s mandate was to form Constitution and the judiciary’s job was to interpret it. “They cannot bring amendments on their own.”
“Do you think that all your sins will be forgiven due to one night of neutrality?” he asked, without naming anyone.
Bilawal said it should not be a concern anymore whether a dictator came from Bani Gala or was sent by the establishment. “The parliament is supreme and it has the power to resolve all issues.”
The foreign minister said the chief justice was not the entire Supreme Court, but instead each and every member of the top court had equal importance. “A mere three judges cannot change the Constitution, “ the minister said in reference to the SC ruling that saw Hamza Shehbaz’s victory in the chief minister election voided.
He also voiced his support for the formation of a joint parliamentary committee on judicial reforms, saying it was essential to protect the Constitution and democracy.
Resolution passed for formation of committee on judicial reforms
Meanwhile, Law Minister Azam Nazeer Tarar presented a resolution for a parliamentary committee for judicial reforms in today’s session, which was unanimously approved.
A day earlier, as the SC proceedings were going against them, the ruling coalition had given a clear indication that it would consider legislation to curtail the powers of the Supreme Court.
The resolution said the Parliament would not allow any other institution to “transgress and encroach” on its powers. It said that the NA resolved to make a special joint committee of the upper and lower houses to institute requisite judicial reforms, adding that they were “the need of the hour”.
Relief efforts after country-wide rains
The prime minister also addressed the country-wide devastation caused by monsoon rains and said the coalition government was well aware of it, adding that he himself had held meetings with the provinces on the matter.
He said provincial governments were working day and night for relief operations and the centre was also playing its role.
PM Shehbaz said he had called another meeting and that the government would increase the relief package announced for the people.
“Wherever there are losses, we will spare no opportunity to make up for them.”