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Wednesday, June 07, 2023  
18 Dhul-Qadah 1444  

Timing of SC tweak bill ‘makes it doubtful’

PTI’s Sheikh Waqas says it will be counter-productive as civil society, lawyers won’t accept it

Important Legislation Relating to Self-Notice Powers and Appeals | Faisla Aap Ka with Asma Shirazi

Unlike, the fellow workers of his new party Sheikh Waqas Akram of PTI supports the bill tweaking the prerogatives of the chief justice. But for him, the timing of the intended legislation was not ripe for the overhaul.

“Timing makes this action doubtful,” he said at Asma Shirazi’s show Faisla Aap Ka on Tuesday. “Many times, the result of a decision changes because of the timing and the situation.”

Akram, anchorperson Muneeb Farooq, and PPP lawmaker Nadeem Afzal Chan were the guests of the show. They had joined to speak on the government’s intention to present a bill to curtail the powers of the chief justice, just a day after two Supreme Court judges released a dissenting note.

“Doing the right thing at the right time was better or else the intended result would not be in your favour,” Akram said. He added that if the government was well aware of improvements in the judiciary then it should start in the lower courts where cases linger on for years, leaving the people hapless. The former lawmaker was of the view that the prevailing situation was not suitable for such decisions by Parliament.

“The timing and purpose of the intended legislation are making it doubtful,” he added. Akram, who recently joined the PTI, went on to add that the bill might be counter-productive for the government as the judiciary and the civil society won’t remain silent on the development.

Sheikh was next in answering the query after journalist Muneeb Farooq, who also supported the government’s bill as there should be a revision in the powers. But the anchorperson used a Punjabi line vele dian namazan tee vele dian takran, which loosely translates into that you did not take the action when the time was right, to explain the scenario.

When asked if a ban could be imposed on the legislation, he negated it. Farooq said that a person-specific bill has never borne fruit while giving the example of a “Contempt of Court Act” brought by the PPP in their tenure to save former prime minister Yousaf Raza Gilani. It was struck down by the Supreme Court as it was malafide. Just for the record correction, he further recalled that the PML-N celebrated the judicial activism at the time of former chief justice of Pakistan Iftikhar Chaudhry.

Nadeem Afzal Chan of PPP, a party which is not part of the PDM but is in the government, said that the demand for the intended legislation was old and the argument pertaining to strike down depended on the situation. He added that arguments were from both sides.

When asked about if the deadline of 90 days could be extended, anchorperson Farooq quoted paragraph 14 of the apex court order issued on March 1. It gave rise to the idea of necessity, he said.

“If such a course is not available, then the Election Commission shall in like manner propose a date for the holding of the poll that deviates to the barest minimum from the aforesaid deadline,” the 13-page short order issued by the bench, formed to hear the delay in Punjab and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa elections, said.

It could be six months or five days or 12 days for the government, ECP, state, or state bodies, Farooq said, adding that the court has already given some room.

He was wary of the developing tiff between the top court and Parliament after the bill. The anchorperson feared the reaction if the SC nullified the ECP’s decision to delay elections.

PPP’s Chan said there were two issues: a constitutional need and bringing the country out of the crisis. He went on to add that democracy could not run on a “one-man show” while asking on whose directions the two provincial assemblies were dissolved.

The crisis would further deepen even if elections were held, he warned while sharing the concerns of the former ruling party on the interim Government of Punjab.

On a query, if the PTI chief would again dissolve assemblies, PTI leader Sheikh said there was no guarantee in politics. A country running without a Constitution or operating without its implementation was also a crisis, he said while speaking about the ECP’s decision to delay polls.

“I think following the Constitution can take the country out of the crisis,” he said and advised that the government cannot deviate from the Constitution. He alleged that the government was running away from the elections.

Chan, who was with PTI before joining the PPP again, did not agree with Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif’s decision to close the option of talks with archrival Imran Khan.

“If talks are held without it [politicians] then its result has never been good,” he said and warned that politicians’ space would end if the dialogue was not followed. PTI’s Sheikh also supported the call.

In a veiling reference to the establishment, anchorperson Farooq said “politicians might forget some past things but some people don’t”.

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