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'No confidence' in SC bench hearing election case: PDM

"PDM doesn't trust the bench comprising these three judges," PDM chief Fazlur Rehman says

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PDM leaders Shehbaz Sharif (centre), Asif Ali Zardari (right) and Fazlur Rehman (left) speak during a press conference in Islamabad, on March 28, 2022. — AFP
PDM leaders Shehbaz Sharif (centre), Asif Ali Zardari (right) and Fazlur Rehman (left) speak during a press conference in Islamabad, on March 28, 2022. — AFP
  • "We have no faith in this court," PDM chief Fazl asserts.
  • PML-N supremo Nawaz Sharif puts weight behind boycott.
  • AGP to declare boycott before Supreme Court bench.


LONDON/LAHORE: Maulana Fazlur Rehman, president of the Pakistan Democratic Movement (PDM), said Saturday the ruling alliance has no trust in the Supreme Court's three-judge bench — headed by Chief Justice Umar Ata Bandial — hearing the election delay case.

"We have no faith in this court. PDM doesn't trust the bench comprising these three judges," asserts Fazl, who is also the chief of Jamiat Ulema-e-Islam-Fazl (JUI-F), while addressing a press conference in Islamabad.

The PDM president expressed his distrust after the ruling alliance — comprising 13 political parties — decided to boycott the said bench in a meeting with Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif in Lahore today where Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) supremo Nawaz Sharif also backed their decision.

During the presser, Fazl added that the chief justice and the other two judges should morally recuse themselves from this case. The PDM president alleged that a few judges want to provide relief to Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) Chairman Imran Khan — whose party has filed a plea against the delay in the polls.

He further alleged that two major culprits of rigging are on the loose and no notice is being taken against them and said that elections should take place on the same day across the country to take place to keep the country united.

"Imran Khan wants divisions within institutions," Fazl said, highlighting the impact of the PTI chief's plea in the apex court.

'Polls should be held at same time'

According to a statement issued later, the meeting of the heads of the component parties of the PDM demanded that elections should be held in the country at the same time.

“Holding transparent and impartial elections is a fundamental constitutional requirement and deviation from it will push the country into political crisis,” read a declaration issued by the PDM.

Matters relating to the country’s overall situation, the alliance’s future strategy and other issues were discussed in the meeting.

In view of the ongoing economic crisis being faced by the cash-strapped country, the meeting noted that if the elections are not held at the same time, the situation would be tantamount to a “suicide attack” on the economic interest of the country.

The ruling alliance also expressed distrust over the three-member bench of the SC hearing the PTI’s petition against the postponement of elections in Punjab.

The meeting demanded that the ongoing proceedings of the court in the case should be terminated by accepting the top court’s 4-3 verdict.

“The chief justice of the apex court wants to impose the decision of the minority on the verdict of the majority,” read the declaration.

It further said that an SC bench headed by Justice Qazi Faez Isa had ordered to stop the hearing of all the cases filed under Article 184(3).

“Contradictory verdicts by the courts have created an impracticable and complicated situation,” the statement added.

The PDM urged the top judge to listen to the dissenting voices from the benches of the SC and form a full court bench on the petition to end the impression of a “one-man show”.

The meeting cited the three-judge bench's verdict in connection with Article 63 (A) — “through which the Constitution was rewritten” — the main reason behind the ongoing political instability in the country.

The impression that the chief justice and some other judges carry out a special discriminatory attitude towards the PTI should be eliminated, the meeting maintained.

'No expectation of justice'

According to Geo News sources, the PML-N supremo pitched the strategy during the meeting convened at the PM’s residence in Model Town to deliberate ways to create counterweights for Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf’s (PTI) mounting legal pressure on the government. 

The apex court is hearing a case over the delay in elections to the Punjab Assembly amid controversy over the suo motu notice taken in this regard.

The meeting, according to sources, was held to hear from Nawaz whether the government should cooperate or not with the ongoing judicial procedure.

As per sources, Nawaz's blunt opinion was: “There is no expectation of justice from the three-member bench”.

"The three-member bench includes Saqib-Nisar-fied judges [smitten by Justice (retd) Saqib Nisar, former chief justice of the Supreme Court]," sources quoted Nawaz as saying.

The consultative meeting agreed that the Attorney General of Pakistan Mansoor Usman Awan would appear in the court and expressed no confidence in the three-member bench.

Sources said the PDM leadership also seconded the advice to boycott the bench, which was ratified by Nawaz, who reiterated that there was no other option left to control the damage than boycotting the bench.

Nawaz was also quoted as saying that the non-formation of a full court bench against the justified demand of the government was indicative of a certain agenda.

Govt vs SC

On Friday, the government’s request to form a full court was also rejected by the court, deepening the ongoing crisis as the former prime minister Nawaz Sharif rejected the bench.

Speaking at a press conference in London, Sharif expressed his concerns over the situation, describing it as a "terrible joke" being played on the people of Pakistan. He urged the nation to awaken to the severity of the crises.

Sharif also spoke out against the decision to disqualify him as the prime minister, stating that it hurt the future of the country.

He lamented the fact that Pakistan was forced into debt and dependence on foreign aid. Sharif demanded answers from those responsible for his disqualification, stating that the decision was made for the sake of one person.

The PTI had challenged the Election Commission of Pakistan’s (ECP) March 22 order of postponing elections in the two provinces. A five-member bench originally formed to hear the plea had been dissolved twice after two judges recused themselves from the case following a Supreme Court order postponing all proceedings under Article 184(3).

However, after the recusal of two judges a three-member bench headed by Chief Justice Umar Ata Bandial and comprising Justice Ijazul Ahsan and Justice Munib Akhtar is now hearing the PTI plea.

On Friday, the parliament passed a new law to curtail the powers of the Supreme Court's chief justice, a move that comes amid a row between the higher judiciary and the government.

Tarar had introduced the bill in the lower house of the parliament on Wednesday and it was passed by the Senate, or upper house, on Thursday.

"The parliament has passed the bill," Tarar told reporters.

PM Shehbaz's government is currently involved in a row with the Supreme Court over the holding of snap polls in two provinces where former leader Imran Khan had dissolved the local governments earlier this year in a bid to force early elections.

The government said it is economically not viable to hold the snap elections first and then have another general election this year.

The Supreme Court earlier this month ordered the snap polls to be held in the two provinces within 90 days of the dissolution of the two local governments, which falls by April 30.

The new draft law, which has been sent to Pakistan's president for assent, has cut down the chief justice's powers to constitute panels, hear appeals or assign cases to judges in his team, according to a copy of the bill.

These tasks will now be done by a three-member committee headed by the chief justice with his two most senior judges as members.

"Every cause, appeal or matter before the Supreme Court shall be heard and disposed of by a bench constituted by the committee comprising the Chief Justice of Pakistan and two most senior judged, in order of seniority," it said.