ISLAMABAD: Less than a week after Mohsin Naqvi took oath as caretaker chief minister Punjab, his appointment landed before the Supreme Court after two applications were filed against it.
The first application, filed by the PTI on Friday, also sought an order to restrain the caretaker chief minister from appointing a cabinet as well as deciding on the elections.
Apart from this, the PTI’s petition also sought the removal of National Assembly Opposition Leader Raja Raiz, SC’s intervention to hold fair elections and the disqualification of two Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) members.
The application was filed a day after the eight-member Punjab interim cabinet took the oath on Thursday. The second application was filed by Awami Muslim League chief Sheikh Rashid Ahmed.
The PTI, in its appeal filed by General Secretary Asad Umar, requested the court to suspend the notification of Mr Naqvi’s appointment and stop him from performing administrative functions.
It also pleaded to strike down the May 25, 2022 notification issued by National Assembly Speaker Raja Pervez Ashraf to declare Mr Riaz as the opposition leader.
Party asks court to ensure free and fair elections, strike down NA notification declaring Raja Riaz opposition leader
Mr Riaz was a PTI lawmaker before the no-confidence motion was filed against then prime minister Imran Khan. As the party decided to resign en masse after Mr Khan’s ouster, Mr Riaz led the group of PTI MNAs who did not tender resignations.
The PTI argued the Jan 1 notification of Mr Naqvi’s appointment issued by the ECP was in violation of Article 224(A)(3) of the Constitution read with the Elections Act, 2017 and the Election Rules, 2017 and therefore be struck down.
Soon after Mr Naqvi’s appointment to the position, the PTI rejected it and vowed to challenge the action before the Supreme Court. The federal government, NA speaker and opposition leader, Punjab caretaker CM and governments of Punjab and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa have been made respondents.
The petition also contended that the ECP and its members violated constitutional and statutory requirements regarding the appointment of the caretaker chief minister and should be held guilty.
SC’s intervention in polls
The PTI urged the court to declare the ECP “partial and incapable” of holding a free and fair election.
The apex court, with assistance of stakeholders, should ensure free and fair elections in letter and spirit so that democratically elected governments take over in Punjab and other provinces.
While accusing the ECP of bias, the petition alleged that in collusion with Mr Naqvi, the commission okayed transfers and postings to bring officials who were inimical to the PTI.
Since Mr Naqvi took the oath, Punjab’s chief secretary, inspector general Police and Lahore police chief have been changed.
The actions of the ECP were worrisome, the petition added and questioned the reasons for a huge reshuffle in the provincial bureaucracy.
The postings which were without any reason or rationale were “unprecedented” as they were intended to thwart the PTI’s popularity, the petition added. The petitioners also raised questions over the rule of law, violation of due process, safeguards for a transparent democratic process and the violation of their fundamental rights as provided in the Constitution
The political crisis in Pakistan has been a constant feature though the Constitution required all state functionaries to ensure best democratic norms are followed to the benefit of people, the petition said.
The party also demanded the appointments of two ECP members — Babar Hassan Bharwana and retired Justice Ikramullah Khan — should be declared unconstitutional.
The composition of ECP, the petition alleged, was against the code of conduct prescribed under Article 209 of the Constitution.
It added that a reference against one of the ECP members filed with the Supreme Judicial Council yielded no progress since the SJC had practically become dysfunctional.
On account of their unlawful and biased conduct and manifested incapacity, they have become disqualified to hold the office as ECP members, the petition alleged.
Sheikh Rashid Ahmed’s petition
The petition was filed by Advocate Sardar Abdul Raziq Khan on behalf of Mr Ahmed.
It pleaded that the appointment of Mr Naqvi should be declared illegal, unlawful, misuse of authority and excess of jurisdiction.
Appropriate directions should be issued to the ECP to perform its duties under Articles 218(A), 219 and 224 of the Constitution and ensure free, fair and transparent elections.
Mr Ahmed alleged that Mr Naqvi was allegedly affiliated — in personal and political capacities — with former President Asif Zardari and the PDM.
He was actively involved in the “regime change movement” against the PTI government and Mr Khan, the petitioner claimed.
The caretaker chief minister was appointed solely on the basis of political affiliation and personal relationship with the present regime, it contended. Therefore, the appointment of a “biased person” for the office of the caretaker chief minister would seriously affect the upcoming elections.
Therefore, by appointing Mohsin Naqvi, the ECP had misused its authority and had made a mockery of law and the Constitution, the petitioner concluded.
Just a couple of hours after being appointed by the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) for a 90-day interim period, caretaker Punjab chief minister Syed Mohsin Raza Naqvi took the oath of office late on Sunday evening.
Caretaker chief minister
Mr Naqvi, a senior journalist and owner of some private TV channels, was appointed Punjab’s caretaker chief minister by the ECP on Sunday. The commission picked his name from among four nominees of the PTI and PML-N after the two parties failed to agree on a name.
Published in Dawn, January 28th, 2023
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