April 4, 2023
By Ahmed Saeed
The Pakistan Bar Council (PBC) and all provincial bar councils have expressed fear that the Supreme Court’s (SC) order to hold elections in Punjab on May 14 would aggravate the ongoing judicial and constitutional crisis in Pakistan.
The three-member bench of the SC headed by Chief Justice of Pakistan (CJP) Umar Atta Bandial on April 4 set aside the Election Commission of Pakistan’s (ECP) order to hold elections of the provincial assemblies of Punjab and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KP) on October 8, 2023, instead of April 30.
“Neither the Constitution nor the law empowers the Commission to extend the date of elections beyond the 90 days period as provided in Article 224(2) of the Constitution,” the order stated.
The SC modified the election schedule and ordered the EC) to hold elections in Punjab on May 14, 2023.
The Court directed the federal and provincial governments to assist the ECP in holding free and fair elections.
“The Federal Government shall forthwith and in any case by 10.04.2023 release and provide to the Commission funds in the sum of Rs. 21 Billion for purposes of the general elections to Punjab and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Assemblies,” the order said.
The PBC said that the decision will only deepen the crisis in the country.
“The SC is not empowered to announce the election schedule and by doing so it ingressed into the domain of Election Commission,” Chairman Executive Committee of the PBC Hassan Raza Pasha told Voicepk.net.
He said that the PBC will again urge the CJP to constitute a full court bench to avert the looming judicial breakdown.
The SC in its verdict did not order holding general elections for the KP assembly. The order noted that the KP Governor’s counsel withdrew from appearing on behalf of his client
“The Governor, KPK Province, therefore, ceased to have representation before the Court. In such circumstances, the matter relating to the KPK Province is not adjudicated upon, with permission granted to the petitioners to file such petition and/or seek such relief before such forum as is deemed appropriate,” the order read.
Commenting on this aspect of the verdict, Vice Chairman of the KP Bar Council (KPBC) Zarbad Shah said that today’s verdict reminds us that there are two Pakistans and two constitutions. He adds that the SC left the fate of KP elections hanging in the balance.
“They have made the SC a joke and it does not seem like a decision given by the apex court. Rather it feels like the verdict was announced by a committee of the PTI,”
The three-member bench led by Justice Qazi Faiz Isa by a majority of 2-1 on March 29, 2023, barred judges of the SC from hearing cases filed under Article 184/3 of the Constitution of Pakistan until amendments are made to the SC Rules governing the CJP’s discretionary powers.
The SC in the verdict also held that the hearing of the present matter remained, and its decision by this bench is wholly unaffected by any observations made by the three-member bench of the SC in a suo motu proceedings.
Former Vice Chairman of the PBC Amjad Shah said that the SC cannot set aside a court order in such a manner. He added that under the SC rules, only those judges can review their judicial order who had originally rendered the judgment.
“Today’s SC verdict will be remembered as one of history’s most controversial and the CJP is responsible for the visible disintegration of the SC,” Amjad Shah said.
Vice Chairman of the Balochistan Bar Council Rahib Khan Buledi said that SC verdict is controversial and will only deepen the ongoing crisis, adding that the CJP formed a bench of junior judges to set aside Justice Isa’s judgment regarding regulating the use of Article 184/3.
Chairman Executive Committee of the Punjab Bar Council Tahir Shabbir said that SC has plunged the country into a constitutional crisis via today’s verdict. He said the crisis can only be averted through the formation of a full-court bench.