April 13, 2023
By Ahmed Saeed
The ongoing political and constitutional crisis in Pakistan is worsening, with the situation heading towards a ‘minus one’ scenario, according to some political pundits, alluding to either Chief Justice of Pakistan (CJP) Umar Atta Bandial or Prime Minister Shahbaz Sharif.
Per the opinion of legal experts, the CJP has formally launched a legal battle with the government by forming an eight-member bench of ‘like-minded’ Supreme Court (SC) judges to hear the petitions filed against a bill clipping the CJP’s powers passed by the Parliament on April 10.
Former Vice Chairman of the Pakistan Bar Council (PBC) Amjad Shah says that a ‘minus-one’ scenario is apparent and that if martial law is imposed, the CJP will be solely responsible.
“Either this government or the Chief Justice will have to quit. The CJP has brought this country to the brink,” he opines.
“If martial law is imposed on this country, then the one person responsible for it will be the one holding the title of Chief Justice of Pakistan.”
Political experts say that either Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif will be disqualified for contempt of court similar to former Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani, or CJP Bandial will be ousted following an internal coup in the SC similar to the one in 1997.
Chair of the PBC Executive Committee Hasan Raza Pasha says that the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) is to this day being made to answer for the incident with former CJP Sajjad Ali Shah, but will be vilified with this ‘war’.
“Things today are a lot different than how they were in 1997, so we may not exactly see the same situation as we did with Sajjad Ali Shah,” he tells Voicepk.net. “Even to this day, the PML-N is being made to answer [for the 1997 incident]. They say ‘everything is fair in love and war’, but considering that they have prematurely issued the notice for the fourth time and the formation of this bench, it is apparent that the outcome will be.”
“Our mark in history will be the side we will stand with,” he adds.
Earlier, Interior Minister Rana Sanaullah while talking to Munizae Jahangir on the Aaj News political talkshow Spotlight stated that any action for contempt of court cannot be taken against the government because the SC had canceled the notice itself by a majority ruling of 4-3 There is a mill
“It will be contempt of court when the Prime Minister fails to adhere to an official court order. No directive has been issued to the Prime Minister as of yet. And furthermore, there is no such order in the first place: when the verdict was decided 4-3 against, then it constitutes a minority verdict,” he stated. “
Hasan Raza Pasha further adds that the government is hiding behind this technical point as the SC has yet to issue the order of the court.
“As far as I understand, the government seems to be exploiting this technical point, and the order of the day has yet to be issued. Why the order has not been issued is the whole problem. The order will not be released things are the way they want them to be.”
It should be noted that the SC has not yet issued the order for the hearing to be held on March 1, while the notes of four judges who were part of the bench state that these petitions had been rejected 4-3. Furthermore, bench member Justice Jamal Mandokhel has demanded the CJP to issue an order of the court several times.
Ahmad Owais, a senior lawyer belonging to Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaaf (PTI), believes that in any case only the Prime Minister will be sent packing as the CJP has the support of the entire legal community. He further opines that the CJP was correct to constitute a larger bench of ‘like-minded’ judges for the hearing of the bill related to the SC as including the other judges would only exacerbate the impression that there is much disagreement among the supreme judiciary.
“There is a vast difference between 1997 and 2023. We have a Constitution and we have a Chief Justice with whom the legal fraternity stands with,” he says. “Why should [the CJP] include other judges in the bench, like Justice Isa, which will only create differences among the judges?”
Apart from the PBC, Punjab and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Bar Councils have also held the SC responsible for the current judicial and political crisis, and demanded that the SC bring an end to this situation by forming a full court bench to hear the cases.