Islamabad: The Supreme Court of Pakistan on Friday summoned Hamza Shahbaz and Pervez Elahi, the two contenders for the Punjab chief minister’s slot, to ask them about PTI’s plea to defer the election process.
The directive came after PTI sought an extension of seven days before the process of re-election.
In another bid to remove Hamza Shahbaz from the post of Punjab chief minister, PTI approached the SC to challenge the orders of the Lahore High Court (LHC) to hold a vote recount on the CM poll held on April 16.
The SC accepted the plea for an immediate hearing earlier in the day and formed a three-member bench. The hearing is currently underway by the bench headed by Chief Justice Umar Ata Bandial.
In a 4-1 split decision, the LHC wrapped up PTI’s case against Hamza’s election to the CM’s slot, while ordering to recount the votes cast during the Punjab chief executive’s election but with the exclusion of 25 PTI dissidents’ votes, in line with the apex court’s interpretation of Article 63(A).
At the outset of the hearing, PTI leader Babar Awan appeared before the court while PTI’s counsel attended the hearing through video link.
Starting his arguments, Awan informed the court that all of the PTI lawmakers are not present in Lahore as some have gone to perform Hajj while some are attending family events.
At this, Justice Ijazul Ahsan remarked that he doesn’t agree on waiting before the voting if any member is absent.
Meanwhile, the CJP said the PTI’s plea seeks time for the lawmakers who are not in the capital as they are away for several reasons — marriages and performing religious obligations.
“So why should the Supreme Court intervene in this? Does the PTI want the court to give it more time? Should we intervene in LHC’s decision?” the CJP questioned.
The chief justice said that the LHC order mentions that the date for voting will be today. “Are you ready for it?” he asked, at which PTI sought seven days for re-polling.
The CJP responded to the request by saying that the lawmakers present in the country should have been able to reach the capital within a day.
“How much time is required for your lawmakers to reach Lahore? Do you want Punjab to remain without a chief minister for seven days?” the chief justice wondered.
CJP Bandial asked if the CM is not in office, who runs the province.
Moving on, Justice Ahsan said a question remains on whether the session for re-voting of the CM will be held at 4pm today or not.
“Persuade us that the session should not be held today, then we will decide whether it should be called today or not,” he told the PTI lawyers.
He also wondered that whether there is a section in the constitution that allows the imposition of governor rule till the election of the CM.
PTI counsel Faisal Chaudhry maintained that PTI has 169 members if the 25 dissidents are excluded.
“This means you don’t have the majority,” CJP Bandial remarked.
At this, Chaudhry said that no one in the Punjab Assembly has the majority.
Meanwhile, Siddiqui maintained that the governor runs the provincial affairs till the election of the CM.
CJ Bandial snapped saying that a by-election on 20 seats is slated for July 17.
“How can we stop the province from working till the by-election,” he remarked, adding that handing the reins to the governor would be unconstitutional.
“We understand PTI’s concern but I don’t think the province should be left without a CM,” the CJ remarked.
“Both parties to face difficulty if they don’t agree on re-poll,” CJ Bandial stated.
The CJ said that the court is not issuing any order to hold the Punjab Assembly session as per schedule, therefore, the session shouldn’t be started till the hearing is underway.
He said that the court will resume the hearing at 3:45 and wrap up by 4pm.
The court also ordered the Punjab advocate general to inform the Punjab Assembly speaker about these directives.