'We are Supreme Court, not running anyone's political campaign,' CJP tells PTI counsel

CJP-led three-member bench directs PTI counsel to submit response to ECP report; adjourns hearing till Monday

Maryam Nawaz

CJP Qazi Faez Isa-led bench hearing PTIs level playing field petition on December 8, 2024. — Screengrab/SC YouTube
CJP Qazi Faez Isa-led bench hearing PTI's level playing field petition on December 8, 2024. — Screengrab/SC YouTube 

  • Adverse actions being taken against PTI through MPO: Khosa.
  • Supreme Court is not a political forum, CJP tells PTI counsel.
  • CJP Isa calls for respecting Pakistan's institutions

ISLAMABAD: Chief Justice of Pakistan (CJP) Qazi Faez Isa observed on Monday that the Supreme Court is not running anyone’s campaign.

The CJP’s remarks during a hearing of Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) plea seeking contempt of proceedings against the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) for allegedly failing to ensure level-playing field to the party ahead of February 8 elections.

“We are the Supreme Court, not the government, we are not running anyone's campaign,” the CJP said after PTI counsel Latif Khosa complained that the party members were being subjected to political victimisation ahead of February 8 elections. 

A three-member bench led by CJP Isa and comprising Justice Muhammad Ali Mazhar and Justice Musrat Hilali heard the matter.

The proceedings of the case were broadcast live on SC's website and YouTube channel.

PTI lawyer Latif Khosa presented arguments on behalf of Advocate Shoaib Shaheen, who filed the appeal in the court.

At the last hearing, the SC issued notices to the Punjab inspector general of police (IGP), chief secretary, and advocate general, seeking their response on the PTI's allegations regarding alleged harassment of their candidates and party leaders.

On December 22, the top court directed the ECP to address PTI’s concern regarding the level-playing field on the former ruling party’s petition.

In line with the court’s order, the ECP representatives met the PTI delegation and assured them of addressing its grievances in the lead up to the February 8 national vote.

However, the party filed another petition on December 26, seeking contempt of court proceedings against the ECP over the electoral body's alleged failure to ensure a level-playing field.

A day earlier, the ECP submitted its response to the top court on the PTI's level-playing field allegations.

The hearing

During the hearing, PTI counsel Khosa told the bench that adverse actions were being taken against the PTI members through Section 144 and Maintenance of Public Order (MPO).

At which, the CJP said section 144 and MPO will be for everyone and not just for PTI.

“Neither Section 144 nor MPO has been challenged before us,” the CJP added.

The CJP also reminded the PTI counsel that the Supreme Court is not a political forum, asking him to use other forums for political purposes.

“Stop whining here. If you don’t have trust in any Pakistan’s institution then what should be done,” the CJP said after Khosa complained that nomination papers of their top leaders were rejected by returning officers.

Responding to Khosa’s assertion, Justice Mazhar pointed out that according to the report of the Election Commission nomination papers of more than 76% of PTI candidates were approved.

“Does PTI want elections?” CJP Isa asked Khosa. To which, Khosa replied: “100%, we want elections.”

The CJP said the Election Commission’s mandate is to conduct elections in the country.

“[..] these are the institutions established by you [parliament]…respect these institutions,” the top judge remarked.

Referring to the ECP report submitted to the top court, the CJP asked Khosa to deny the facts if they believed they were wrongly stated in the report.

Khosa complained that PTI has not been granted permission to hold political gatherings and nomination papers of senior leader Shah Mahmood Qureshi were rejected by the RO.

At which, the CJP responded that the Supreme Court cannot direct any RO not to reject anyone’s nomination papers.

The CJP inquired from the PTI counsel if he had read the report submitted by the ECP in response to the PTI’s petition.

CJP Isa said the PTI would have to come up with something in writing if it was rejecting the ECP’s report.

After hearing the arguments, the SC ordered PTI to submit its response to the ECP’s plea and adjourned the hearing till next Monday (January 15).  

76pc of PTI’s papers accepted, ECP tells SC

ECP Special Secretary Dr Syed Asif Hussain on Sunday rejected the PTI's allegations that it was not being provided a level playing field for the February 8 elections and asked the Supreme Court to “dismiss the contempt petition with a penalty”.

The ECP official said this in reply to the PTI petition, demanding the SC to begin contempt of court proceedings against the ECP secretary, inspectors general of police (IGPs), chief secretaries of the four provinces and interior secretary over non-compliance of the apex court order passed on December 22, 2023.

The ECP special secretary said that on the SC order, the commission held a meeting with the PTI delegation and heard their grievances. He said their complaints were addressed and they were assured that a level playing field would be provided to all the parties and candidates without any discrimination.

Hussain said the electoral body had issued instructions pertaining to the complaints to the Islamabad chief commissioner, all the four chief secretaries, provincial election commissioners and IGPs.

He added that the orders were also issued to the district returning officers and returning officers. The special secretary said that until December 26, 2023, a total of 33 complaints were made by the PTI and actions were taken on all of them. The IGP, chief secretary and ROs also submitted reports regarding action on the PTI complaints, he added.