Nawaz hits out at ‘selective’ suo motu benches

Published April 1, 2023
PML-N supremo Nawaz Sharif addresses a press conference in London on Friday. — Screengrab
PML-N supremo Nawaz Sharif addresses a press conference in London on Friday. — Screengrab

LONDON: Pakistan Mus­lim League-Nawaz (PML-N) supreme leader Nawaz Sharif on Friday hit out at members of the superior judiciary for what he termed “selective” suo motu notices benches.

In a rare press conference, held at Stanhope House, the former premier criticised incumbent Chief Justice of Pakistan (CJP) Umar Ata Bandial as well as ex-CJP Saqib Nisar and said there was consensus “among all” that a full court should hear the elections case.

“All political parties have said this, the government wants this, bar associations want this, parliament has expressed its will and even passed its bill. It is now with the president… parliament is the country’s major institution, its sanctity should be respected,” he elaborated.

Even a majority of judges have expressed their views in every way, as has civil society, Mr Sharif said. “Then why this Zid [stubbornness]? Why the insistence that only three judges will be on the bench? This is a national issue, not the issue of one truck, cart or of vacating a plot. Why just these three judges?” he questioned.

In “every case these three people decide the fate of the country”, he alleged.

“Even in 2017 a similar bench was formed that brought Pakistan to a point where its future has become bleak,” he said, though the economic situation during his tenure had been different.

In 2017, a Supreme Court bench disqualified then PM Nawaz Sharif from office on the grounds that he lied about his assets during a corruption probe linked to Panama Papers.

As criticism against the judiciary mounts and the government pushes a bill to curtail CJP’s discretionary powers, there are speculations that the development may pave the way for Mr Sharif to appeal against his disqualification that also took place in a suo motu case.

“I appeal to my people, open your eyes. This is a cruel joke. In 2017, weren’t you happy? You had full stomachs, your families were content. After 2017, what was the situation?”

He recounted the lower dollar rate, price of sugar, commodities and medicine during his time.

“For one man, you [the judges] are giving decisions? Have you ever taken a suo motu on things said by Justice Shaukat Siddiqi? Or what ex-COAS Gen Bajwa said? Doesn’t this warrant a suo motu that Nawaz Sharif was treated unjustly?”

He alleged that a handful of judges are imposing their whims on the nation. “If a bench is not acceptable, then how can we accept its decision? If there are so many reservations… but if there is a full court then that will be acceptable to all. What is the reluctance behind this?” He added that even if a judge recused himself, he was on the bench.

“Are all decisions and benches for Imran Khan?” the PML-N supremo said, when asked about senior judges differing in their views with the three-member bench.

Asked about the Friday proceedings of the apex court, Mr Sharif said: “I also heard that the chief justice had tears in his eyes, if these are from fear of God then that is welcome news. I cannot say more.”

About Justice Mazahar Ali Naqvi, Mr Sharif said, “His case should go to the Supreme Judicial Council. What he has said and evidence against him… there are complete audio and video leaks — this is a fit case of accountability. Without a doubt, a man is known by the company he keeps… the kind of people who are friends with this individual, only God can save our courts and judges.”

He added that Justice Shaukat Aziz Siddiqi was dismissed instead of investigating the allegations against him. “If this is the standard of justice, then God save our justice system.”

Published in Dawn, April 1st, 2023

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