ISLAMABAD: A new chapter was added in Pakistan politics late night when President Dr. Arif Alvi administered the oath to Punjab’s Chief Minister Choudhary Pervez Elahi who was earlier astonishingly declared to this portfolio by the Supreme Court.
Since the Governor Baleegh-ur-Rehman declined to take oath, following the order of apex court, President performed this duty and obeyed the Supreme Court. Pervez Elahi reached Islamabad with his close colleagues by a special plane from Lahore and attended the ceremony. He stayed in the capital in the night and was scheduled to return to provincial capital today.
Pak Supreme Court amended the history
Pakistan Supreme Court on Tuesday took very bold and unexpected decision for certain circles that has changed the political chess and the whole system by struck down Deputy Speaker Dost Muhammad Mazari’s contentious ruling on Punjab chief minister’s election, and declared it “illegal” as it announced the highly anticipated verdict on PML-Q leader Chaudhry Parvez Elahi’s petition.
The verdict saw Hamza Shehbaz lose his status as the “trustee” chief minister and his rival from PML-Q, Parvez Elahi, who had PTI’s backing, and will now take over the position as per the top court’s order.
A three-member bench comprising Chief Justice of Pakistan (CJP) Umar Ata Bandial and Justices Ijazul Ahsan and Munib Akhtar announced the decision.
In another political development, Punjab Governor Baleegh-ur-Rehman has refused to administrator the new chief minister and President Alvi has gone to Islamabad and will take oath from the president tomorrow (Wednesday) morning.
During the election, Mazari, the deputy speaker, had decided against counting the votes of 10 PML-Q lawmakers, which were cast in Elahi’s favour, citing a letter written by party President Chaudhry Shujaat Hussain in which he had instructed them to vote for Hamza instead. That decision had tipped the balance in Hamza’s favour — an advantage the SC reversed in its verdict.
The top court, in its short order, declared all the appointments made by Hamza “illegal” and told the members of his cabinet to vacate their offices.
All of the advisers and assistants appointed by Hamza were also ordered to be relieved of their duties.
The top court ordered for the issuance of Elahi’s notification as the new Punjab chief minister immediately, also instructing the governor to take his oath at 11:30pm tonight.
Ahead of the verdict, JUI-F leader Maulana Fazlur Rehman paid the PML-Q chief a visit at his residence in Lahore and discuss with him the latest situation but achieved nothing.
Earlier today, the counsel for Punjab Assembly Deputy Speaker Dost Mohammad Mazari, Irfan Qadir, informed the Supreme Court that his client had instructed him not to participate further in the case proceedings and he would instead file a petition for review of the court’s decision not to constitute a full bench.
PPP counsel Farooq H. Naek also declined to participate in the court proceedings. However, they both stayed in the courtroom and watched the proceedings. The ruling coalition had said yesterday it would boycott the proceedings in protest.
Meanwhile, PTI leader Fawad Chaudhry, while talking to media persons outside the apex court’s Lahore registry, said that the SC should not be burdened with “political matters”.
“The PML-N should have accepted its defeat and separated from the government after the [Punjab CM] election,” he said, adding that this matter should never even have been brought to the court.
While reading the brief verdict, Chief Justice of Pakistan Umar Ata Bandial said that the copy of the judgement should be sent immediately to the governor Punjab, deputy speaker and chief secretary.
The apex court, according to the 11-page verdict, declared all appointments made by the PML-N leader Hamza Shahbaz as null and void.
Furthermore, the top court also dissolved the cabinet formed by Hamza, saying that the deputy speaker “sabotaged the Constitution of Pakistan”.
Supreme Court’s written verdict
“We find that the understanding and implementation of the said short judgment as well as the provisions of Article 63A(1)(b) of the Constitution by the Deputy Speaker, Provincial Assembly of Punjab, Lahore (Respondent No.1) was patently incorrect and erroneous and cannot be sustained,” said the order. It added that the act also “subverted” the governance of Punjab.
“As a result, the Ruling dated 22.07.2022 issued by Respondent No.1, Deputy Speaker, Punjab Assembly is set aside and declared to be void, without lawful authority and of no legal effect,” said the Supreme Court.
The order then declared Pervez Elahi as the duly elected chief minister of Punjab as it ruled that he had obtained 186 votes compared to Hamza’s 179.
The order also declared that the oath of office administered to Hamza was “without lawful authority and of no legal effect”.
“Likewise all acts, deeds and things attendant and consequent upon such oath including but not limited to the notification of Respondent No.2 (Hamza Shahbaz) and the formation and swearing in of the Cabinet on his advice is also declared to be without lawful authority and of no legal effect,” said the order.
Court was not convinced for full bench
During the hearing today, the chief justice remarked that the bench had not been provided with even one legal argument in favour of constituting a full bench during yesterday’s hearing. “You asked for time which is why the hearing was adjourned,” he told Naek.
“Remain in the court and watch the proceedings. The legal question has not been answered yet,” he added.
Justice Bandial said the question was whether the party head could issue instructions to the parliamentary party. “According to the law, the parliamentary party makes the decision [who to vote for]. The party head can send a reference in case of deviation from the party policy.
“A full-court bench cannot be formed for this question.”
The chief justice said lawyers for all sides had been given time to present their arguments. The Supreme Court had dismissed the caretaker cabinet in 1988, the CJP continued, adding that the chief executive was the head of the cabinet.
“We want to wrap up the matter of Punjab chief minister as soon as possible. We could not be convinced to [constitute] a full bench.”
He iterated that a full bench could not be formed till the second week of September and said the court would now hear arguments on the case’s merit. “There is a crisis in the province because of this case. Further delaying tactics will not be tolerated,” he cautioned.
Justice Bandial said that the 21st Amendment was brought up during the hearing. “[Then] Justice Azmat Saeed had observed regarding the 18th Amendment that vote would be cast in accordance with the party head’s instructions.”
However, he noted that the present case was different and the court would need assistance. He also remarked that the presidential reference on Article 63-A did not include the question of who would give the instructions. “At the time of the interpretation, the question was only about the consequences of defection.”
The CJP went on that if someone had comprehended the Constitution incorrectly, the interpretation could be cancelled.
“Misinterpreting the Constitution means that the Constitution has not been understood correctly,” he said, adding that out of 17 judges, eight had given their opinions on the 21st Amendment.
“But this is not the majority’s decision because a majority of nine judges is required,” the chief justice observed, adding that back then, the bench comprised 17 judges.
Separately, the CJP reiterated that he wanted to wind up the case at the earliest because of issues of governance and the crisis in Punjab.
The chief justice questioned whether the Supreme Court could be bound by the decision of eight of its 17 judges. “The majority of the full-court bench did not agree with the party head issuing directions,” he observed.
“Those who boycotted court proceedings have shown enough grace to sit and watch them,” he remarked.
He then directed Parvez Elahi’s lawyer, Ali Zafar, to assist the court in legal matters. The lawyer said that the court had heard detailed arguments yesterday. “The matter here doesn’t concern the interpretation of Article 63-A.
“The court has already interpreted it before. Here, the matter concerns the directions of the party head,” Zafar said.
He pointed out that as per the 18th Amendment, the party head was given the power to take action against dissident members.