Hamza accepts verdict with ‘an open heart’

CM says winner of by-polls should be allowed to ruleElahi treats SC verdict as victory since ‘all demands accepted’

Punjab Chief Minister Hamza Shehbaz said on Friday that he had accepted the SC’s decision regarding the Punjab chief minister’s election – which will now be held on July 22 – with an “open heart”.

Talking to the media, he recalled that Punjab had been a victim of a constitutional crisis for the past three months. “First the elections were postponed; then oath-taking was delayed. For two months, we didn’t have a cabinet. As a politics student, I believe that the amount of crisis Punjab has seen in these last three months, it can get an entry in the Guinness Book of World Records,” Hamza said.

“I told the court that I am a democratic person and have struggled for 17 years. I told the honourable chief justice that if I didn’t have numbers for the run-off election, I wouldn’t even be standing here. I would have gone home,” he said.

“I told them to hold the election right now,” Hamza said, adding that the SC’s decision was acceptable to him because “I have nothing to hide”.

Hamza continued that during the by-elections on July 17, whichever party the public chooses should be given the province’s charge. “Even on that day, whatever the public chooses, I will accept it.”

He, however, expressed confidence that the nation would show their support for PML-N supremo Nawaz Sharif and Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif during the by-polls, as they had seen who was working for the public.

Separately, Pakistan Muslim League-Quaid (PML-Q) leader and Punjab Assembly Speaker Parvez Elahi welcomed the Supreme Court verdict, saying that “all our demands have been accepted today”.

The apex court, after an hours-long hearing on Friday, ruled that the Lahore High Court’s (LHC) order to recount the votes cast in the April 16 Punjab chief minister’s election and conduct a second round of voting if required would now be implemented after by-elections on 20 Punjab Assembly seats are conducted on July 17.

The decision was made after a consensus among the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI), PML-Q and the Punjab government was reached.

Talking to the media after the hearing, Elahi, who is competing for the post of Punjab’s chief executive alongside PML-N’s Hamza, hailed the top court’s order. “A good decision has been made today in which all our demands have been met. Even the chief justice appreciated that a consensus was reached amicably,” he remarked.

Briefing the media on the order, the PML-Q leader said that the court decided there would be no “use of police” or “victimisation” during the July 22 election. “Everything will be held as per the rules of the assembly.”

He went on to say that the chief minister’s election would now be held after the House was complete. “They will be conducted once the notifications for the 20 PA members and 5 reserved PTI seats are issued.”

Elahi asserted that the poll would be held in the assembly, adding that he would be responsible for ensuring that the House rules and election code of conduct were followed. He also said that the verdict was a “victory for democracy and the constitution”.

On the other hand, senior PTI leader Asad Umar hailed the top court’s verdict, saying the decision was an affirmation of the PTI’s stance that Hamza Shehbaz “had never been an elected chief executive of the province”.

Talking to journalists outside the SC building along with senior party leaders like Chaudhry Fawad and Babar Awan, Asad Umar said the PTI had never accepted Hamza as the “legal and constitutional CM”.

The former minister noted that the top court, in its verdict, also said that no one would be allowed to influence the by-polls on 20 Punjab seats, to be held on July 17 and that directions would also be issued to relevant authorities, including the Election Commission of Pakistan and the Punjab Police inspector general, in this regard.

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