The Supreme Court (SC) summoned on Friday Hamza Shahbaz and Pervaiz Elahi via video link, at 3:45pm, as it announced a short break while hearing the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf’s (PTI) plea challenging the Lahore High Court’s (LHC) decision to recount the votes polled during the April 16 Punjab chief minister election.
Chief Justice of Pakistan (CJP) Umar Ata Bandial, who is presiding over the bench hearing the petition, said that the apex court will be giving the order by 4pm, after having heard the two candidates in the run for the CM’s post.
The other two judges hearing the case include Justice Ijaz ul Ahsan and Justice Jamal Khan Mandokhail.
The CJP had asked the PTI counsels to prepare for the case before earlier postponing the hearing of the case for half an hour.
Read Vote recount for Punjab CM contest ordered
“The PTI must inform the court on how a provincial government will be run without a chief minister,” the CJP observed, adding that, according to the Constitution, only elected representatives can run a provincial government.
Justice Bandial maintained that a caretaker government can only be set up in the face of the assembly being dissolved. The chief justice asked the PTI counsels to put their heads together and prepare.
CJP Bandial stated that the deadlock in Punjab should not be a matter of egos, rather an issue concerning the country. “If there is no chief minister, uncertainty will prevail,” he added.
The chief justice criticised PTI counsellors for not referring to the Constitution regardless of the deadline stipulated by the LHC. “Had the counsels read Article 130, they would have known the solution,” the CJP said referring to the LHC judgment that mentions the requirement of a majority vote in the assembly to secure the post of chief minister.
Justice Ijaz ul Ahsan stated that it was likely the election for the post of Punjab CM will not be held today at 4pm however, adding that deferring the vote for seven days was too long. The judge instead advised the court to set a time limit of 24, 36, or 48 hours.
Counsel for Punjab Assembly Speaker Chaudhry Pervaiz Elahi requested the court for more time, arguing that six members of the provincial assembly were currently performing Umrah while there notifications concerning five important seats were still pending.
In response, Justice Ijaz ul Ahsan stated that, “The world will not end after this election.” The SC justice furthered that if the PTI managed to secure a majority in the Punjab Assembly, a no-confidence motion could be exercised.
Justice Ahsan remarked that a re-election does not warrant stagnation of the provincial government.
Moreover, Justice Mandokhail commented that the court had to refer to the Constitution and not the wishes of party members. “We must not do anything that can be misused,” he observed.
PTI challenges decision
Earlier in the day, the PTI had challenged the LHC decision in the apex court, and had requested for the plea to be heard urgently.
Punjab Assembly Deputy Speaker Sardar Dost Muhammad Mazari, Hamza Shahbaz, and others were made party to the petition.
Following the filing of the appeal, CJP Bandial formed a three-member bench and fixed the petition for hearing at 1:30pm.
In its appeal, the PTI has stated that while the LHC had accepted the party’s position, the order to convene a meeting of the provincial assembly on short notice would prove detrimental.
The petition dubbed the LHC’s decision "unconstitutional", stating a suitable timeframe must be provided to convene a meeting of the assembly so that all members may attend as votes are to be recounted on July 1 (today).
The PTI further called for Hamza Shahbaz to be suspended from his post and removed from office so that “fair and transparent elections” can be held.
In light of their stance, the PTI called for the order of election to be suspended immediately, seeking their appeal be heard by the apex court on an emergency basis.
Addressing the media after filing the petition, PTI counsel Faisal Chaudhry said that the appeal highlighted the “many ambiguities” present in the Lahore High Court’s decision.
Chaudhry added that the “rights of the speaker of the Punjab assembly Chaudhry Pervez Elahi had been disregarded".
The barrister furthered that if a chief minister is to be elected, an appropriate time should be provided as some PTI lawmakers have left to preform Umrah.
“The decision of the Lahore High Court to hold elections so soon is beyond comprehension,” he added.
He further hoped that the Supreme Court would hear the “important issue” today, adding that the deputy speaker was a “controversial figure”.
“If the first election was wrong then how can there be a second round?” he questioned.
The LHC's decision to re-count the votes of the recent Punjab chief minister election will in all probability provide an easy win for provincial chief Hamza Shehbaz who would most likely secure an easy win in the second round of polls for the slot.
The PML-N sits in a comfortable position in the Punjab Assembly, with a majority of around nine votes. The PTI and their ally PML-Q, who do not have any real fighting chance in the upcoming Punjab CM election, have decided to approach the Supreme Court against the decision and reportedly announced boycotting the polls.
Hamza, on the other hand, will continue to hold his office as the LHC has instructed the presiding officer to recount Punjab CM votes subtracting 25 votes of PTI defectors, and proceed to the second round of elections.
Read more Hamza most likely to secure an ‘easy win’
The LHC's decision of vote re-count was wrongly interpreted in the first place as some people thought that the Punjab CM election had been declared null and void and Hamza disqualified. They further believed that Usman Buzdar had become Punjab’s caretaker CM again.
The court’s decision was hailed as the PTI’s success by its leaders. Mian Mehmoodur Rashid said the verdict called for celebration as Hamza was no more the CM.
However, after careful reading of the order, the PTI leaders and many others came to know that the provincial government was still intact, and so were the chief minister and his cabinet. The court in its decision had only ordered the re-counting of votes sans 25 disqualified PTI parliamentarians.
Even with the facts available before the court, it was evident that Hamza did not have a simple majority. However, the court abstained from assuming the role of presiding officer and ordered a recount of the votes today.