How unfortunate is Pakistan. Ever since its creation, the country has faced turmoil is one shape or the other. Be it political or economic or a security situation, Pakistan has seen it all. But it has never been more bruised than it is today. The country has been slapped with one crisis after another, with no remedy in sight. Today, Pakistan is in a bad shape economically; on the security front, it is facing threats from all borders, and politically, it is heading nowhere. On top of it, a constitutional crisis is brewing. The delay in polls in Punjab and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa is the latest bone of contention. The Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI) had filed a petition in the Supreme Court against the delay in holding the elections.
A five-member Supreme Court (SC) bench headed by Chief Justice of Pakistan Umar Ata Bandial took up the case. In the meantime, the government introduced a bill, which aimed at clipping the powers of the Supreme Court chief justice in taking suo motu notices. A separate SC bench, headed by Justice Qazi Faez Isa, then ordered that cases being heard under Article 184(3) of the Constitution be postponed till the amendments to the Supreme Court Rules 1980 on the discretionary powers of the chief justice to form benches were approved. A day later, Justice Aminuddin Khan, who was part of the bench, recused himself from the hearing. He was followed by Justice Jamal Khan Mandokhail who also recused himself, reducing the bench to three judges. Attorney General of Pakistan (AGP) Usman Mansoor then requested a full court to hear the petition against the Election Commission of Pakistan’s decision to postpone polls till October 8. However Justice Bandial turned down the request.
Later, a huddle of coalition partners, led by the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N), followed which expressed its reservation on the three-member bench and called for discontinuation of the proceedings. In a statement following the meeting, the PML-N said: “A complete distrust had been shown in the three-member bench of the SC comprising CJP Bandial, Justice Ijazul Ahsan and Justice Munib Akhtar”. The Pakistan Democratic Movement (PDM) leaders outrightly said that there would be “no talks” with PTI Chairman Imran Khan and pledged to take the fight to any level, reiterating that elections would not be held before October. The PDM component parties’ leaders including PML-N chief Nawaz Sharif, Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) co-chairman Asif Ali Zardari, JUI-F chief Maulana Fazlur Rehman, PPP chairman Bilawal Bhutto-Zardari, Maryam Nawaz, MQM’s Dr Khalid Maqbool Siddiqui, Balochistan National Party’s Akhtar Mengal, National Party leader Dr Abdul Malik Baloch, Mahmood Khan Achakzai, Dr Khalid Magsi, Aftab Ahmad Sherpao, Shah Awais Noorani, Mohsin Dawar, Ameer Haider Hoti and others were all in attendance via video link.
The meeting was presided over by Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif.
The participants of the meeting said the Supreme Court could not interfere in the matters of the ECP, which was an independent institution.
Nawaz Sharif even suggested boycotting the three-member bench and moving a reference against the three judges.
Maulana Fazlur Rehman went on to accuse the SC of becoming a party in the case, and called on the chief justice and the other two judges to also recuse themselves.
Nawaz Sharif’s views were supported by Interior Minister Rana Sanaullah who told a media outlet that the government might file a reference, but a final decision on it was yet to be taken.
The next few days are critical. With all sides sticking to their guns, the outcome of this confrontation does not seem good. The common man is struggling to survive, the best of minds are leaving the country and those that remain are looking towards a bleak future. Is the political crisis of the 1950s being replayed?