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Extreme restraint being shown by SC should not be considered as its weakness: CJP

24 January, 2018

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ISLAMABAD: Chief Justice of Pakistan (CJP) Mian Saqib Nisar on Tuesday observed that the extreme restraint being shown by the Supreme Court should not be considered as its weakness.

He observed this while heading a three-member Supreme Court bench also comprising Justice Umar Ata Bandial and Justice Ijazul Ahsan, which had take up 15 almost identical petitions against the Election Act 2017, which paved the way for the ousted prime minister Nawaz Sharif to be re-elected as head of the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N).

The chief justice observed that the jurisdiction of the Supreme Court had to be determined by its own, adding that requests could be made before the court, however it could not be pressurised and the politicians should refrain from making the statements that may undermine the judiciary. He also instructed that after the hearing, there should be no media talk outside the court.

At the onset of hearing, the chief justice when found the Leader of the House in the Senate Raja Zafarul Haq in the court, said, “Good to see you Raja Zafarul Haq sahib. I have seen you after a long time.”

Raja Zafarul Haq then told the court that he came to know about the case on Friday, thus at least two weeks’ time was required for the ruling party to draft the reply.

The chief justice said he could only give 10 days to the government to prepare the case.

Expressing surprise over the statement of Raja Zafarul Haq that the ruling party came to know about the fixation of the petitions on Friday, the chief justice said the leaders of the ruling party were very well informed and good speakers.

Addressing Railways Minister Khawaja Saad Rafique, who along with Senator Pervaiz Rashid was present in the court to represent ousted prime minister Nawaz Sharif, the chief justice said, “Khawaja sahib, why don’t you say something, you speak very well.”

When Saad Rafique said, “May I speak in the court”, the chief justice asked him that he was allowed to speak his mind before the court, however the court would reply to his statement. He said that although judges did not respond to the statements made outside the court, their silence should not be misconstrued as a weakness.

Pledging to protect the dignity of the judiciary, the chief justice asked the politicians not to make any type of political statements at the court’s premises.

He said political speeches criticising the apex court verdicts would undermine the institution of judiciary, adding that politicians should not make such defamatory speeches, which may make it difficult for the future generations to access justice.

He said Raja Zafarul Haq was a senior parliamentarian and he knew how much honour was being given to the parliament by the apex court. He said since judiciary respects the parliament and its members, the same sentiments should be reciprocated by the parliamentarians and politicians for the judiciary as well.

He said Pervaiz Rashid delivered speeches but with love and patience. He said the court was showing patience and would continue showing patience, as it did not want to divert its attention by indulging in other matters.

When advocate Zulfiqar Bhutta told the court that he was one of the petitioners in the case and next few days were very important for the country, the chief justice asked him not to say so in his court just to make himself a headline.

Barrister Farogh Nasim, counsel for one of the petitioners, informed the court that he had filed a separate application for an interim order against Nawaz Sharif’s headship of PML-N.

He said he wanted annulment of only that clause of the Election Act, which allowed a disqualified person to head a political party and not the entire law. “How can we stop a person from becoming a party president without suspending the law, which has allowed him to do it,” the chief justice observed.

The chief justice asked him to tell whether the court could issue a stay order against any legislation made by parliament. He said Nawaz Sharif became the head of PML-N through legislation.

The counsel then requested the court not to adjourn the case on the request of any party. The chief justice said the case involved legal questions, thus it would be heard with patience.

Latif Khosa, senior counsel for Pakistan People’s Party (PPP), also a petitioner, stated that the leaders of PML-N say that they are iron grams. “We don’t watch TV, but everything reaches to us”, the chief justice noted.

To a court query that who will represent Nawaz Sharif in the matter, Senator Pervaiz Rasheed stated that he will represent the former prime minister in the case. Later, the court adjourned the hearing till February 6.

The petitions were filed by Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) chairman Imran Khan, Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) secretary general Syed Nayyar Hussain Bukhari, Awami Muslim League chief Sheikh Rasheed Ahmad, PPP MNA Jamshed Ahmad Khan Dasti, Pakistan Justice Party, National Party, All Pakistan Aam Admi Party, Zulfiqar Ahmad Bhutta advocate, Muhammad Dawood Ghaznavi, Abdul Wadood Qureshi, Sheikh Ashanuddin, Ishtiaq Ahmad Chaudhry, Gohar Nawaz Sindhu and Amna Malik, under Article 184 (3) of the Constitution making the Federation of Pakistan, ECP, Nawaz Sharif and others as respondents.

The petitions maintain that electing a disqualified person as a head of a political party was tantamount to usurp the spirit of the Constitution. Some petitioners have contended that the Election Act 2017 passed by the parliament was completely an encroachment on the autonomy of the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP).

The petitioners have argued that that this law has taken the ECP out of its constitutional sphere and made it subordinate to the ministries and departments.

The Election Bill 2017, commonly known as electoral reforms bill was approved by the Senate and subsequently signed into law by the president on October 2, 2017.

A controversial clause in the bill allowed disqualified politicians to hold a public office or to lead a political party. The Election Reforms Act 2017, paved the way for disqualified prime minister Nawaz Sharif to be re-elected as head of the Pakistan Muslim League- Nawaz (PML-N).

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