ISLAMABAD: A three-member bench of the Supreme Court led by Chief Justice of Pakistan Umar Ata Bandial on Thursday appeared to be in a defensive mode, as the CJP implored all parties to sit together to break the political impasse, while also clarifying that the court on April 20 had not directed political parties to negotiate rather it was a mere suggestion.

At the last hearing on April 20, the CJP through an order had asked political parties to sit together and chalk out a strategy for deciding the date for simultaneous polls and update the apex court on the progress in negotiations by April 27.

During the hearing on Thursday, CJP Bandial implored political parties to sit together to break the political impasse in the wake of a delay in elections.

“Constitution violation has already taken place (due to delay in elections) but we want to abide by the Constitution so that nobody disregards it,” observed the CJP while heading the bench inclulding Justice Ijazul Ahsan and Justice Munib Akhtar. Justice Bandial conducted the entire proceedings while the other two judges remained quiet throughout the hearing.

“The present political environment is of estrangement and bitterness but the Constitution is supreme, besides we are holding the present proceedings in accordance with the constitutional mandate,” he emphasised. It was always a good idea for political parties to discuss issues amongst themselves; it was not a direction but a suggestion, he said in reference to the court order on April 20.

Justice Bandial says courts cannot ‘force political parties to hold parleys’; detailed SC order still awaited

The court closed Thursday’s proceedings with an observation that it will issue an appropriate order but will not give any timeline for the culmination of the parleys as it did on April 20 when it had given political parties one week to reach a consensus date. The courts cannot force political parties to hold parleys but they should approach each other with optimism, the CJP observed, adding the court was finding a constitutional way out.

However, no order had been released by the apex court until the time of going to print.

During the hearing, PTI leader Shah Mehmood Qureshi claimed the ruling coalition was using delaying tactics to run away from polls in Punjab directed by the Supreme Court on May 14.

Mr Qureshi assured the court that the PTI believed in negotiations and always respected the Constitution and the courts. As he made further comments of political nature, the CJP stopped him from indulging in politics. PTI spokesperson Fawad Chaudhry opposed the idea of giving political parties the right to advance the election date.

PPP leader Farooq H Naek said that Senate Chairman Sadiq Sanjrani was acting as a facilitator for talks between the government and the opposition. Senate was chosen to initiate the talks since it was the House of federation and currently members of all the political parties were its members, he added.

Attorney General Mansoor Usman Awan said the Senate chairman wrote letters to the leaders of the house and the opposition asking them to nominate five leaders each from both sides.

During the hearing, the CJP also tried to kill the speculations of differences amongst the judges by stating that on April 20 we had to meet at the chambers since Justice Munib Akhtar had to leave for Karachi early.

The CJP observed that the Supreme Court was not pushing anyone for dialogue but wanted to find out a way to enforce the Constitution for the resolution and solution of the present impasse.

Published in Dawn, April 28th, 2023

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