'Please, sit together for the sake of Constitution,' CJP Bandial tells govt, PTI

PTI rejects Senate committee; govt says talks with PTI will be held through parliament

Abdul Qayyum Siddiqui
Haider Sherazi
Chief Justice of Pakistan Umar Ata Bandial. — Files/SC website
Chief Justice of Pakistan Umar Ata Bandial. — Files/SC website

ISLAMABAD: Chief Justice of Pakistan Umar Ata Bandial on Thursday urged the ruling alliance and the opposition to sit together for talks on elections for the sake of the Constitution.

“Please for the sake of the Constitution sit with each other,” remarked CJP Bandial while wrapping up the election delay case’s hearing for today. 

The Supreme Court held the hearing amid a deadlock between the government and Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) over talks on polls.

At the outset of the hearing, Attorney General of Pakistan (AGP) Mansoor Usman Awan informed the court that the first contact between the government and the opposition took place on April 19, and they agreed to meet on April 26.

He stated that federal ministers Ayaz Sadiq, Saad Rafique met PTI leader Asad Qaiser, who said that he didn’t not have the authority to hold talks.

The AGP said that the members of the ruling coalition met on Wednesday. Two of the coalition partners had objections to the negotiations, but they found a way out, he added.

Awan informed the court that Senate Chairman Sadiq Sanjrani had written to the government and opposition and sought four names from the Treasury and Opposition benches in the Parliament each.

At this, CJP Bandial inquired what the government did after Qaiser informed them about his inability to hold talks.

The AGP replied that they got to know on Tuesday through the media that PTI Vice Chairman Shah Mahmood Qureshi had the authority to hold talks.

The CJP then asked that in what capacity was the Senate chairman approached. At this, AGP Awan responded that the senate chairman was asked to intervene as his office was a “symbol of the federation”.

CJP Bandial remarked that he Farooq H Naek had on the previous hearing that Senate chairman will facilitate the talks.

“Senate chairman is neither the representative of the government and nor the opposition. If the government is serious about negotiations, it would have taken action itself,” the CJP remarked.

"The court cannot force [parties] on a dialogue. The court only wants implementation on the Constitution so that the dispute is resolved," the top judge added. He said that the court did not need any clarification but a solution to the issue.

On talks in Senate, the CJP stated that the it will take time for the chairman to summon a meeting.

At this point, PPP’s lawyer Naek said that all parties in the ruling alliance were willing to negotiate with PTI.

“Senate is the only institution where all parties have a representation,” he added. He added that negotiations were to be done by committee and political leaders.

“It is a political issue, so political leaders should be allowed to solve the problem. Let politicians decide the future of politics,” said Naik.

Following this, PTI Vice Chairman Shah Mahmood Qureshi came on the rostrum told the court that there was “no consensus” within the Pakistan Democratic Movement (PDM) on talks. He added that his party took the court’s order seriously while the government was “trying to violate the Constitution”.

“The court provided an opportunity to the political parties for the sake of national interest. [However] PTI has not been contacted [as of yet],” said Qureshi.

CJP Bandial then remarked that one has to be patient in the matter of negotiations.

Naek then told the bench that PDM chief Maulana Fazlur Rehman has been convinced for talks in the Senate.

“The court has not made an order it’s just an advice. If there is no consensus for the sake of national interest and Constitution then things will remain as they are,” said CJP Bandial. He also wondered why there was delay in proposing names of representatives for talks and asked whether the government had proposed its five names.

“Government’s names will be finalised within three to four hours. If the PTI wants then it can give three names but five [senators] are important,” said Naek.

CJP Bandial then suggested that Naek be included in the talks so he can cool down the temperature. He also remarked that it seems that the government was passing the buck on talks.

While wrapping up the hearing for today, CJP Bandial remarked that the court will not issue any directives nor will it issue a timeline for the talks. However, he added that the court will issue an appropriate order. 

PTI rejects Senate chairman's offer 

Ahead of the hearing, the PTI rejected the proposal floated by Senate Chairman Sadiq Sanjrani regarding the formation of a 10-member special parliamentary committee with equal representation from both sides to start a dialogue to end the impasse.

The offer came after the apex court in it last hearing before Eid ul Fitr directed the political parties to hold a dialogue in a bid to reach a consensus on the date of elections in the country. 

The hearing was then adjourned till today (April 27) after the key ruling parties — Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) and Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) — assured the SC they would sit with PTI and try to find a solution on the election date.

Despite a thaw in strict stances on both sides, that hasn't yet happened.

However, the ruling alliance has proposed the formation of a 10-member parliamentary committee with equal representation from both sides for talks on holding elections across the country on the same date, in line with the SC order.

The development came after a meeting of the ruling allies on Wednesday, where Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif had said that a parliamentary committee would discuss the terms of talks between the allied parties and the PTI. 

Meanwhile, the PTI has also formed a three-member committee for talks with the ruling alliance for elections on the same day.