ISLAMABAD: Chief Justice of Pakistan Umar Ata Bandial had a word of advice for the PTI leadership on Thursday, suggesting it should ask its legislators to return to parliament since voters had elected them for five years.

“A massive deluge has inundated scores of people who are without potable water to drink or food to eat. Besides, a number of visitors are coming to Pakistan to lend help in the relief work,” the CJP observed during the hearing of a petition by the Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf.

The PTI challenged a decision by the Islamabad High Court (IHC) on Sept 6 to reject its plea that the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) be asked to de-notify the party’s 123 MNAs as they had resigned their National Assembly seats.

A two-judge Supreme Court bench, headed by the CJP, is hearing the petition. The other judge on the bench is Justice Ayesha Malik.

The petition was moved by PTI through Faisal Fareed.

“Does the PTI leadership have any idea how much the by-elections in 123 constituencies would cost to the nation, especially at a time when the economic condition of the country is not much to be appreciated,” Justice Umar Ata Bandial observed, adding that the actual obligation of the party is to take part in the parliament’s proceedings.

On July 19, the CJP had asked PTI vice chairman Shah Mahmood Qureshi during a hearing to explain why his party gave a walkover to the government during the passage of amendments to the National Accountability Ordinance (NAO) 1999.

“An individual has to make sacrifices for the greater good of the nation and it is time to show responsibility,” Justice Bandial had observed.

On Thursday, the CJP emphasised that the judiciary cannot question the National Assembly speaker’s ruling at will. “It is a duty of the court to support parliament,” Justice Umar Ata Bandial said.

Elections might help the party (PTI) in some way, but apparently there seems nothing wrong with the Speaker’s decision, he added.

The PTI’s counsel wondered why the ECP cannot hold by-elections in 123 constituencies if it can do so in 11. “This policy of cherry-picking is meant to target the PTI only.”

NA Speaker’s role questioned

The party had argued in its petition that National Assembly Speaker Raja Pervaiz Ashraf had no authority to sit over already accepted resignations of PTI MNAs on any ground. It accused the speaker of delaying the submission of resignations to the ECP “with help from the assembly’s secretary in order to cause political damage to the petitioner party”.

The PTI had unanimously decided at a meeting of its parliamentary party on April 11 that its 125 legislators should resign their National Assembly seats. The decision came two days after its government was removed on April 9.

Qasim Khan Suri, who was the deputy speaker at that time, accepted 123 of the 125 resignations on April 13 and asked the National Assembly secretariat to notify the same in the Gazette and communicate the decision to the ECP.

The CJP asked the PTI’s counsel to attend the next hearing fully prepared, wondering what benefit the party would reap in case of en masse resignations and by-elections on 123 seats.

ECP move on by-elections

The PTI moved another application before the apex court on Thursday seeking suspension of the Sept 15 ECP decision to hold by-elections in eight National Assembly constituencies only. The party described the commission’s move as discriminatory and “aimed at causing harm to PTI”.

“The issuance of the election schedule to the extent of just eight seats amounts to a deliberate and malicious effort to defeat the cause of the petitioner in absolute negation of the law.”

Published in Dawn, September 23rd, 2022

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