Cabinet ponders over ‘Punjab polls, NSC decision’

Ayaz Akbar Yousafzai
Waqar Satti
Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif chairs a cabinet meeting in Islamabad on Tuesday in this undated photo. — PID/File
Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif chairs a cabinet meeting in Islamabad on Tuesday in this undated photo. — PID/File
  • Meeting discusses issue of funds for polls in Punjab.
  • Top court's verdict on polls also discussed in huddle. 
  • Cabinet approves decisions taken during NSC meeting.

ISLAMABAD: Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif chaired a meeting of the federal cabinet on Sunday to mull over several matters pertaining to the recent political and constitutional crises in the country. 

In the meeting’s agenda, according to the sources, the issue of funds for elections in Punjab came under consideration, while the federal government also decided to either give or not give funds to the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP). Officials have been asked to sit out the cabinet meeting, sources told Geo News.

It was also earlier quoted by the sources that the meeting would discuss President Dr Arif Alvi's decision to return the Supreme Court (Practice and Procedure) Bill 2023, Justice Athar Minallah’s dissenting note, Supreme Court's verdict on polls and deliberation on the country’s political and economic issues would also come under discussion.

The meeting, held via video link with the premier and most ministers joining it online, devised a strategy to address matters surrounding the bill with the government’s legal team in attendance.

According to the sources, the federal cabinet meeting also approved the decisions taken during the National Security Council (NSC) meeting that took place on Friday.

Ministers, who have joined the cabinet meeting from the PM House, include Inter-Provincial Coordination Minister Riaz Hussain Pirzada, Overseas Pakistanis Minister Sajid Toori, Housing Minister Maulana Abdul Wasay, State Minister Hashim Notezai, while the prime minister’s advisor Ameer Muqam is also present in-person.

Those attending online include Economic Affairs Minister Ayaz Sadiq and Railway Minister Khawaja Saad Rafiq.

Another meeting tomorrow

A special meeting of the federal cabinet has been called again tomorrow (Monday) at the Parliament House, sources told Geo News.

Consultation on matters related to the joint session of parliament will come under discussion in the meeting, they added.

The cabinet, as per the well-placed sources, will also decide its stance on providing funds to the ECP for elections, while matters pertaining to legislation will also come under consideration.

President returns bill unsigned

A day earlier, President Alvi returned the bill curtailing the chief justice's powers with a request for reconsideration in order to meet the scrutiny about its validity.

The bill is aimed at curtailing the powers of the chief justice — including the suo motu and the formation of benches. The Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) has strongly condemned the move to pass the legislation and said it is an "attack on the judiciary".

The president returned the Supreme Court (Practice and Procedure) Bill, 2023 for reconsideration to the parliament as per the provisions of the Article 75 of the Constitution, stating that the bill prima-facie travels beyond the competence of the parliament and can be assailed as colourable legislation.

President Alvi said that SC Rules 1980 had been "made and in force duly validated and adopted by the Constitution itself" under enabling provisions such as Article 191 of the Constitution which empowers the top court to make rules regulating the practice and procedure of the court.

"These time-tested rules are being followed ever since the year 1980 —any tinkering with the same may tantamount to interference with the internal working of the Court, its autonomy and independence," the letter stated.

The bill was approved by both houses of the parliament last month and sent to the president for assent amid a deepening political and constitutional crisis in the country over elections in Punjab and KP.

After Alvi's refusal to assent to the legislation, the government is likely to get through this bill from a joint session of the parliament.

Later, PM Shehbaz castigated the president for his move to return the bill unsigned, calling it "most unfortunate". 

"Through his conduct, he has belittled the august Office by acting as a worker of the PTI, one who is beholden to Imran Niazi more than the Constitution & demands of his Office," he added.

All-out anti-terror operation

The NSC in its meeting on Friday had decided to kick start an all-out comprehensive operation against militant outfits to root out the menace of terrorism from the country.

"The meeting agreed to launch an all-out comprehensive operation — with renewed vigour and determination — with the [help] of the entire nation and the government, which will rid the country of the menace of terrorism," the statement mentioned.

This all-around and comprehensive operation to eliminate the scourge of terrorism in all its forms from Pakistan will also include efforts at the political, diplomatic, security, economic, and social levels.

A high-level committee has also been formed in this regard and will make recommendations regarding the implementation and limitations within two weeks, the statement said.

The meeting, according to the statement, emphasised comprehensive national security — in which the relief of the people was central. "The forum was informed that the government was taking steps in this regard."