ISLAMABAD: Former Spea­ker of KP Assembly Mushtaq Ahmad Ghani approached the Supreme Court on Monday, seeking conte­mpt proceedings against Governor Haji Ghulam Ali for allegedly violating its March 1, judgement that required him to announce a date for elections in the province.

In a petition, Mr Ghani said the Supreme Court should ask President Dr Arif Alvi or any “suitable functionary” to appoint the poll date.

The petitioner said the governor violated the judgement by delaying the announcement of poll date, adding that contempt proceedings may be initiated under Article 204 of the constitution read with section 3 of the Contempt of Court Ordinance 2003 and Order 27 of the Supreme Court Rules, 1980.

He alleged that the governor had been creating and propagating doubts, qualms, fears and misgivings about holding elections within the constitutionally guaranteed deadline of 90 days on one pretext or the other. The governor had been brazenly giving interviews in media, maintaining that he does not see elections to happen within the constitutional timeframe, the petitioner said.

Former Speaker Ghani says governor’s ‘brash mannerism’ shows he’s fully geared up to defy SC orders; petitioner terms ECP’s conduct ‘extremely discouraging’

He said the respondent (governor) was not only found — through a recent court judgement — to have committed a breach of his constitutional responsibilities, but he has also been continuously disregarding the court’s clear directions despite being the highest constitutional functionary of the province. Therefore, the petition pleaded, it is necessary to proceed against him.

Notwithstanding the immunity available to the respondent under Article 248, he has had committed contempt of court and thus acted against the oath of his office, Mr Ghani said.

The petitioner highlighted the 2012 contempt case against former prime minister Syed Yousaf Raza Gilani in which the court held that holders of exalted offices (including president/prime minister or governor) on account of their executive office require greater restraint, and there is nothing in the constitution which bars initiating contempt proceedings against them.

The Constitution mentions no exemptions from the obligation it imposes, and Article 25(1) provides that all citizens are equal before law and are entitled to equal protection of law, the petition argued.

This seminal judgement goes on to propound that the holder of constitutional office has higher responsibility because he, unlike ordinary citizens, makes an oath to discharge his duties in accordance with the constitution and law. Their oath also requires that they will preserve, protect and defend the constitution, therefore, more stringent legal standards apply to them as compared to others who have not taken a similar oath and the court had greater reason to be particularly concerned about the possibility of contempt having been committed by such public officeholders, the petition pleaded.

While the respondent holds an office mentioned in Article 248, the Supreme Court held in the 1998 Masroor Ahsan case that scope of powers and functions of such a high functionary cannot possibly be extended to committing of contempt of court which is punishable under the constitution itself, according to the petition.

Neither the constitution nor any law authorises holder of such high office to commit a criminal act or do anything which is contrary to law, the petition said, adding the immunity provided under Article 248 cannot be extended to illegal or unconstitutional acts.

Holders of such high offices are bound to obey the constitution and law under Article 5(2) which is basic obligation of every citizen, the petition pleaded.

But through his “brash and unabashed mannerism and public posturing”, the respondent has left no doubt that he is not interested in discharging his constitutional responsibilities and seems fully geared up to defy, disregard and disobey the orders of the Supreme Court and has thus conducted himself in a manner to have clearly and undoubtedly committed culpable contempt of court, the petition regretted.

Likewise, Mr Ghani said, the conduct of the Election Commission of Pakistan is also extremely discouraging as it appeared as if it’s hand in glove with the KP governor and seems more inclined to postpone elections both in KP and Punjab while aligning itself with defective line of reasoning orchestrated by the respondent.

Published in Dawn, March 21st, 2023

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