LAHORE/ISLAMABAD: A three-member Supreme Court bench, which took the PTI plea against the Lahore court’s Thursday order, on Friday ruled that the election for the Punjab chief minister would be held on July 22, adding that it would issue the written order by Saturday (tomorrow).
“We are glad that there is a consensus between the two opposing groups,” presiding judge Chief Justice of Pakistan Umar Ata Bandial said. “Thank God there is some consensus among the political groups.”
Confusion over Punjab CM as Supreme Court adjourns hearing
Earlier, the bench had adjourned the hearing of the case till 3:45 on Friday after Punjab Assembly Speaker Chaudhry Parvez Elahi agreed to maintain Hamza Shehbaz as the interim chief minister of the province.
“Call Parvez Elahi and Hamza Shehbaz,” Chief Justice of Pakistan Umar Ata Bandial said while presiding over the hearing of the case. “This is not a matter of one’s ego.”
The Punjab Assembly would meet today for the recount of votes – excluding 25 votes of the PTI’s defecting members – held for the election of the chief minister on April 16, as per the order.
Both the candidates for the Punjab CM election were summoned to the Lahore registry via video link. But, Parvez’s spokesperson rejected such reports. “The news is baseless and full of lies. Parvez Elahi is not part of the video link in the case.”
“I am appearing from the opposition leader’s side. We object to the continuity of Hamza Shahbaz,” Babar Awan, who was presenting arguments from the PTI side, said.
He demanded of the court to grant him 242 hours. The lawyer contended that the election should be stopped until the by-election.
“The issue of by-election carries weight. I think the seven-day is too long,” Justice Ahsan said.
The court remarked that one more day could be added to the time given in the dissenting note, he said, adding: “It is likely that the election scheduled for today at 4pm could not happen.” Justice Ahsan called for the appropriate time, 24 hours, 36 hours or 48 hours, for voting.
One of PTI’s lawyers, Imtiaz Siddiqui, pointed out that the Election Commission of Pakistan had not yet notified lawmakers on the reserved seats in the Punjab Assembly. At this, Justice Ahsan remarked that “the world would not come to an end” if the notification was not issued.
‘Is PTI ready or not?’
“The voting date in the dissenting note is tomorrow,” presiding judge CJP Bandial said and asked PTI whether it was ready for voting or not.
The chief justice asked on which basis the SC should intervene in the LHC order.
Justice Ijaz Ul Ahsan asked that could the lawmakers arrive in one day as the PTI had maintained that their leaders were out of the country and it needed time.
PTI seeks seven more days
Awan sought seven days from the apex court, adding that the notification would be finalised on reserved seats in a week.
The bench replied that Lahore could be reached within 24 hours from any area and advised the lawyer to first complete the appropriate statement and then present another point of view.
“You want that there should be no chief minister in Punjab for seven days,” CJP Bandial said.
The demand for a seven-day time was not appropriate, Justice Ahsan said, adding that the second round of election would start after the court order. He remarked that the province could not be kept without province for a long time.
Awan maintained that the former chief minister or any senior minister could be given the charge in the case of the bench’s inquiry over who will govern the province if the chief executive was not available.
There was no chance for the ex-CM to come again, CJP Bandial said.
“The question is whether the session should be held at 4pm today (Friday) or not,” Justice Ahsan remarked and asked the lawyer to convince on it.
The session was adjourned for half an hour.
“It is prayed that the Chief Minister [of] Punjab [Hamza Shehbaz] may kindly be removed pending this election process due to the absence of a valid notification of his appointment,” said the PTI petition.
The three-judge bench comprises Chief Justice of Pakistan Umar Ata Bandial, Justice Ijazul Ahsan, and Justice Jamal Mandokhel.
It also urged the court to grant time and issue such direction that a free and fair election for the post of Punjab CM takes place with the participation of a duly constituted assembly in accordance with the norms of the Constitution.
“It is also humbly prayed that pending the instant petition, the election process may kindly be suspended,” it said, “It is also humbly prayed that since the 25 votes of defectors are admittedly not to be counted, there is no need to repeat that exercise of recounting and hence the notification issued for the Chief Minister is liable to be quashed as duly noted in the minority judgment.”
“As a consequence, if required majority, under Article 130(4) [The CM shall be elected by the votes of the majority of the total membership of the Provincial Assembly], is not secured by any candidate, he shall proceed for second and further polls under its provisos for completing the process of election as required under Article 130(4), unless a candidate is elected by majority votes,” said the court’s short order.
Developments so far
- Session to be held at 4pm
- Treasury claims to have 176 votes, adding re-election of Hamza as CM
- Opposition has 168 votes
- Sources said opposition was planning to boycott session
- PTI challenged LHC decision in SC, seeks suspension of Hamza election
- Treasury members residing in a private hotel
- Elite force inside assembly
Following in his father’s footsteps, Hamza was elected chief minister on April 16, 2022, by 197 votes which included 25 votes of dissident PTI lawmakers. It was 11 more than the 186 votes required for a simple majority in the 371-seat Punjab Assembly.
If Hamza loses the required majority then a fresh election would be held, with Deputy Speaker Dost Muhammad Mazari presiding over the session. He would be up against joint opposition’s Parvez Elahi.