Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif found Chief Justice of Pakistan (CJP) Umar Ata Bandial’s remarks during a Supreme Court hearing on the delay of the Punjab elections to be offensive.
The PM said that “Pakistan’s past was replete with instances of people receiving jail terms for holding a particular attitude or point of view” in response to the CJP’s comments on the National Assembly floor. “It is a matter of dishonor to serve a prison sentence in a criminal case, in a just society, at the hands of a fair judge,” he said.
Shehbaz added that he was one of the lawmakers imprisoned under the previous administration and that the PTI government run by Imran Khan was obsessed with locking up opposition figures.
“Imran put me in prison twice, not just once. He had every intention of locking me up a third time,” the premier said. He also discussed the different legal challenges he encountered while the PTI administration was in office. He added that various judges had given him bail.
“I was granted freedom based on merit, and I am present here today because of God’s mercy. Imran, however, found this intolerable and regarded us as a pain in his side,” the Prime Minister said.
In response to the CJP’s comments, PM Shehbaz questioned, “Is it illegal that, after I won my case in the high courts, a decision is then made on the basis of merit? Does this warrant admiration, honor, or shame? Is my presence in this House today and ability to talk with dignity an issue of honor or shame?”
The CJP had stated that people who had previously served jail sentences were now giving ranks in parliament, but PM Shehbaz questioned whether he would address the “baseless cases” brought against the erstwhile opposition.
“I want to ask the chief justice, what message do you want to send to the nation by having a judge sit alongside you, against whom there have been serious allegations?” Premier enquired without naming any individuals.
The prime minister hoped that the CJP had discussed the National Crime Agency of the UK’s inquiry into him, which had turned up no proof of any illegal activity, or the Daily Mail’s explanation after accusing the prime minister of “stealing British foreign aid money.”
“He (CJP Bandial) did not recall all of this, but he did recall that I was delivering a statement following my completion of a jail term. This unfairness cannot persist.” The premier added during his address that the three-member SC panel hearing the PTI’s request to delay the election had lost the support of the entire coalition government.
The country “will have no difficulty accepting that decision,” he claimed, if CJP Bandial convened a full court to hear the case. Shehbaz claimed that it was “100% against the principles of justice” for a three-member panel to make such a “complicated and contentious decision.”