Friday, May 20, 2022

LHC seeks replies from Hamza Shahbaz, parties over pleas against Punjab CM election

PTI MPAs including Sibtain Khan maintain police prevented them from exercising right to vote at Hamza's behest

Punjab CM Hamza Shahbaz. — AFP/File
Punjab CM Hamza Shahbaz. — AFP/File

  • Court inquires whether actions already been taken before SC's ruling can be nullified.
  • PTI MPAs maintain in plea that police prevented them from exercising their right to vote.
  • Question presence of police inside provincial assembly.

LAHORE: The Lahore High Court (LHC) on Friday issued notices to Hamza Shahbaz and other respondents, seeking their reply over PTI and PML-Q's pleas challenging Hamza's election as the Punjab chief minister.

A bench, headed by LHC Chief Justice Ameer Bhatti, conducted the hearing on separate pleas — filed by PTI and PML-Q — against Hamza Shahbaz's election as the Punjab chief minister.

During the hearing, PTI lawyer Barrister Ali Zafar and others appeared before the court.

Presenting his arguments, Barrister Zafar maintained that election for the Punjab CM was held on April 16 as per the court's directives and Hamza took oath as the CM.

However, the Supreme Court ruled while giving interpretation on Article 63(A) of the Constitution that dissidents' votes cannot be counted, he added.

Justice Bhatti inquired from when the apex court's ruling will be applicable.

"It has to be seen if the actions that have been taken before the SC's ruling can be nullified or not," the judge remarked.

The court accepted the pleas for hearing and issued notices to the parties — seeking their reply — for May 25.

PTI's MPAs, including Sibtain Khan, maintained in the plea that the police forced the PTI and PML-Q out of the Punjab Assembly to prevent them from exercising their right to vote at the behest of Hamza, followed by riots and chaos, after which Hamza was declared the Punjab CM.

They also questioned the presence of cops inside the provincial assembly.

They said the secretary of the Assembly had prevented the entry of non-members, but alleged that the deputy secretary had called 300 non-members inside.

The petitioners alleged that bogus voting had been done in the election, indicating that PTI MPA Ahsan Saleem Baryar did not cast his vote but his name was on the voters list. They requested that the election of Hamza Shahbaz as the Punjab chief minister be declared null and void.

PML-Q reaches out to LHC against Hamza

Meanwhile, Punjab Assembly speaker Chaudhry Pervaiz Elahi, who was also a candidate for the CM's slot, filed a separate plea challenging Hamza's election. The plea nominates Hamza and other individuals concerned as respondents in the case.

Elahi has maintained that Hamza does not have the number of votes required to be elected as the chief minister in light of the Supreme Court's order.

In a 3:2 split decision, three judges of the apex court — Chief Justice of Pakistan Umar Ata Bandial, Justice Ijazul Ahsan, and Justice Munib Akhtar — agreed that dissident members' votes should not be counted. But Justice Jamal Mandokhail and Justice Mazhar Alam Khan Miankhel disagreed with the verdict.

Elahi claimed that Deputy Speaker Dost Muhammad Mazari declared Hamza CM-elect unjustly.

The plea requests the court to restrict Hamza from working as the Punjab chief minister till a final decision in this case. It also seeks cancellation of Hamza's oath as the CM and orders for a new election for the CM slot.

Amid ruckus, Hamza Shahbaz elected Punjab CM

Hamza was elected as chief minister Punjab in a ruckus marred session of the Punjab Assembly on April 16, 2022.

Ahead of the vote, three PTI members of the Punjab Assembly were arrested for attacking Deputy Speaker Dost Mohammad Mazari as the party boycotted the session to elect the new chief minister.

Hamza was elected as the new chief minister with 197 votes. While his opponent, Elahi did not receive any votes as his party and PTI had boycotted the polls.

Earlier, the lawmakers of the ruling party had thrown "lotas" at Mazari and attacked the deputy speaker and pulled his hair despite the presence of security guards. The deputy speaker left the hall after this and the session was delayed.

Before assaulting Mazari, the PTI lawmakers caused a ruckus when they brought "lotas" to the house and started chanting "lota, lota" (turncoats) as they lashed out at dissident PTI MPAs who parted ways with the party and decided to support the Opposition.

As the situation got intense and requests were made for the police to control the situation, the anti-riot force personnel entered the assembly wearing bulletproof jackets and arrested the PTI MPAs.

The police entered the premises of the Punjab Assembly through the old building and took control of the situation.