Elections conundrum: Nawaz says 3-member SC bench hearing case ‘unacceptable’

Published March 31, 2023
PML-N supremo Nawaz Sharif addresses a press conference in London on Friday. — DawnNewsTV
PML-N supremo Nawaz Sharif addresses a press conference in London on Friday. — DawnNewsTV

PML-N supremo Nawaz Sharif on Friday cast doubt on the verdict — which is yet to to come — by the three-member Supreme Court bench hearing the petition against the postponement of polls in Punjab.

A diminished Supreme Court bench — comprising Chief Justice of Pakistan (CJP) Umar Ata Bandial, Justice Ijazul Ahsan and Justice Munib Akhtar — is currently hearing the PTI’s petition against the Election Commission of Pakistan’s decision to postpone elections to the Punjab Assembly till Oct 8.

The three-member bench was constituted after the original five-member bench was disbanded following the recusals of Justice Aminuddin Khan and Justice Jamal Khan Mandokhail.

Earlier today, the three-member bench had rejected Attorney General for Pakistan Mansoor Awan’s request for the formation of a full court to hear the PTI’s petition.

In a press talk from London, Nawaz was asked whether the three-member bench’s decision would be acceptable. “It is a straightforward thing. When the bench itself is not acceptable, then how can its decision be acceptable?” the ex-premier asked.

“What is the wisdom behind it? […] the whole nation needs to understand this.”

Nawaz noted that a bill aimed at curtailing the chief justice’s suo motu powers had also been passed by parliament and was now with the president. He said that the attorney general and a “majority of judges” in the country had also expressed their opinions in this regard.

“When there is a united voice, then why this stubbornness that only these three judges will be on the bench? This is a national issue, not a minor one.”

He said there were many capable judges in the top court “yet in every case these three come to the fore and make decisions regarding Pakistan’s future”.

Nawaz said that a “similar bench” was constituted in 2017 that had taken the country to a point where its future “had turned black”.

The PML-N supremo called on the people to “open your eyes”. He went on to say that the country was thriving in 2017, talking about his government’s achievements.

“After 2017, we have to plead for our friends to give us $1 billion […] and this is because of the decisions of our benches,” he said, again calling on the nation to “open your eyes”.

“Once again, Pakistan has been brought to the edge of destruction due to the decisions of these benches,” he said, alleging that “those same three judges” were involved in disqualifying him while the rest, including ex-chief justices Saqib Nisar and Asif Khosa, had retired.

While the PML- leader did not name the judges in his press talk, the bench that disqualified him in the Panama Papers case only featured one of the judges hearing the Punjab polls case, Justice Ahsan.

He wondered where the decision in the case at hand would take the country. “Protect yourselves from the decision they’re about to take […] stand up against such people who want to take Pakistan to the edge of destruction,” he said, addressing the nation.

In an apparent reference to PTI chief Imran Khan, he alleged that moves were being made for the sake of “one person”.

He pointed out that the top court did not take suo motu notice of the things that ex-judge Shaukat Aziz Siddiqui said.

“Is suo motu not warranted after the things ex-army chief Qamar Javed Bajwa said? That there was an injustice against Nawaz Sharif and a wrong verdict was announced against him?” he asked.

Bajwa has reportedly said that there was nothing credible in the furore created over a Dawn story published in 2016, claiming that the issue was hyped up by his predecessor in a bid to secure an extension from then-prime minister Nawaz.

Nawaz said that a full court bench would have the party’s “full confidence”. Without taking any names, he said that two of the judges included in the bench had issued verdicts against him in the past.

“And every past decision seems to be against us yet the judges are still sitting there. One person on this bench has recused himself yet he is still there,” he said.

During the media talk, Nawaz was also asked about whether an inquiry should be initiated against Justice Mazahar Ali Akbar Naqvi, who has been the subject of recent audio leaks.

“Justice Mazahir’s case should go to the Supreme Judicial Council. What he has said and the proof against him, audio and video leaks […] there is no doubt about this.”

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