Friday Apr 08 2022

LHC asks for Punjab Assembly record on plea seeking court's intervention to hold CM polls

PML-N Opposition Leader in the Punjab Assembly Hamza Shahbaz Sharif talks to journalists during a press conference in Lahore, on March 25, 2022. — PPI
PML-N Opposition Leader in the Punjab Assembly Hamza Shahbaz Sharif talks to journalists during a press conference in Lahore, on March 25, 2022. — PPI

  • LHC holds brief hearing on Hamza, Mazari's plea to hold election for CM Punjab.
  • CM's position had fallen vacant on April 1 after Usman Buzdar's resignation.
  • "Where were you for the last eight days?” LHC asks PML-N counsel.

LAHORE: The Lahore High Court (LHC) adjourned Friday the hearing on Opposition Leader in the Punjab Assembly Hamza Shahbaz and Punjab Assembly Deputy Speaker Dost Muhammad Mazari's pleas seeking the judiciary's intervention in holding the election for the chief minister's office, till Monday.

LHC Chief Justice Ameer Bhatti headed the bench hearing the pleas. At the outset of the hearing, Senator Azam Nazeer Tarar maintained that the matter is a constitutional issue and the CM's office cannot remain vacant for a single day.

At this, Justice Bhatti remarked: "This is the reason that the court took up the plea today after removing objections."

During the hearing, the counsel representing Mazari requested the court to issue a directive for Mazari to visit the Assembly till the next hearing.

However, the LHC CJ adjourned the hearing till April 11, saying that the court will hear the case after receiving the Assembly record.

The CM's office has been vacant for more than a week since ex-governor Chaudhry Muhammad Sarwar — who was removed from his position last week — accepted Usman Buzdar's resignation on April 1.

Read more: Opposition's symbolic Punjab Assembly session elects Hamza Shahbaz as new CM

Filing an appeal in court, Hamza made Punjab Assembly Speaker Parvez Elahi, Deputy Speaker Dost Muhammad Mazari, and Inspector-General of Police Punjab Rao Sardar Ali Khan parties.

The LHC's registrar objected to admitting the plea citing Article 69, which restricts courts from interfering with the parliament's business. Later, the matter was forwarded to LHC Chief Justice Ameer Bhatti, who admitted the plea.

Earlier, Hamza's lawyer Tarar, told the LHC that the speaker was himself running the CM’s office, and on the other hand, the deputy speaker was working in line with the Constitution.

The LHC asked whether the petition could be set for hearing on Monday. At this, the lawyer said the province does not have a government for the last eight days. "Then where were you for the last eight days?” the LHC CJ asked.

Tarrar responded that he was busy in a Supreme Court case — where he was presenting the PML-N leadership. The SC gave a landmark judgment wherein it restored the NA and nullified government orders from April 3-7.

The PML-N lawyer further stated that the advocate general of the province had assured the Punjab Assembly session would be called for electing the chief minister, but it was called on April 3 and adjourned till April 6.

"...and on the same days, the assembly secretariat — on the orders of Elahi — sealed the doors of the assembly," he said, to which the LHC asked if the doors of the assembly are sealed, how would the court orders be implemented?

The speaker — a candidate for the CM's post — had on April 6 barred members of the Punjab Assembly and media personnel from entering the building after the deputy speaker had summoned a session for the election of the CM.

The security of the provincial legislature had also put up barbed wires at the main gate of the Assembly.

At this, Tarrar said the doors were closed "just for us" as the assembly's staff members are being allowed inside. Following the brief arguments, the LHC CJ adjourned the hearing for a short period and summoned the advocate general.

‘Punjab’s affairs being run without CM for a week’

Tarar, while speaking to the media outside the LHC after the hearing, said that Punjab's affairs are being run without a CM for a week.

He called for the immediate election of the CM under the law and Constitution.

"The candidate who is winning wants the election to be held at the earliest, while the one who is losing takes these kinds of steps," he said.

The petition

In the petition, the Opposition leader said the CM's post remains vacant despite the passage of several days and urged the need to immediately elect someone to the position.

"Assembly secretary and administrative officers are obeying the illegal orders of Parvez Elahi and the Punjab Assembly's session is being delayed without any reason," the petitioner said.

Read more: Sacked governor Chaudhry Sarwar blasts PTI leadership

In the petition, Hamza said that under Article 130, the election for the CM cannot be delayed. He said the parties named in the case are not performing their duties in line with the law.

"Therefore, the court should issue an order at the earliest and make the election possible," he added.

No-trust motion against speaker, deputy speaker

Elahi's move to bar assembly members was made after PTI submitted a no-confidence motion against Dost Mohammad Mazari — despite him being a PTI loyalist — as he summoned the session without consulting the party.

Moreover, after submitting a no-confidence motion against Prime Minister Imran Khan, the joint Opposition filed a no-trust motion against Punjab Assembly's speaker Elahi on Thursday.

Hamza elected 'CM Punjab'

Two days back, the Opposition's symbolic Punjab Assembly session elected PML-N leader Hamza the CM after the government sealed off the provincial assembly.

Members from the PML-N, PPP, and PTI's Jahangir Khan Tareen and Abdul Aleem Khan groups attended the session, with PML-N Vice President Maryam Nawaz also present.

Read more: Opposition submits no-trust motion against Parvez Elahi

PML-N leader and MPA Rana Mashhood Ahmad Khan had claimed that more than 200 MPAs were present at the hotel for the session.

The Tareen and Aleem groups have parted ways with the PTI and Prime Minister Imran Khan and decided to support the Opposition's candidate for the CM's post.

SC's landmark judgement

Hopes are high from the judiciary as, just a day back, the Supreme Court restored the National Assembly (NA) after it declared the government's decision to dissolve the Assembly and NA Deputy Speaker Qasim Suri's ruling against the Constitution.

The top court ordered NA Speaker Asad Qasier to summon the session on Saturday (April 9) no later than 10:30am to allow the vote on the no-confidence motion against the premier.

The Supreme Court also "declared that the assembly was in existence at all times, and continues to remain and be so" — as it nullified all the decisions of the government from April 3-7.