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Monday, August 8, 2022

Run-off Punjab CM election: LHC seeks record of ‘threatening’ messages sent to PTI lawmakers

The Lahore High Court (LHC) on Wednesday summoned the record after a Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) lawyer claimed that the party’s leaders were being harassed by the police and Interior Minister Rana Sanaullah ahead of run-off elections for the office of the Punjab chief minister.

Justice Aalia Neelum of the LHC passed the order on a petition filed by PTI leader Zainab Umair through her counsel Advocate Azhar Siddique.

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The court took up the matter just two days before the run-off election of the Punjab chief minister, scheduled for tomorrow (Friday).

“You [the lawyer] are making a big claim,” remarked Justice Aalia, asking the lawyer about the harasser of the lawmakers and whereabouts of the victims.

The lawyer said that it was Sanaullah who harassed the PTI lawmakers. He said the PTI lawmakers also received WhatsApp messages from the police in which they were harassed.

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“Has it not been challenged before the Supreme Court?” the judge asked, referring to the petition moved by the PML-Q leader in the top court.

Justice Aalia also asked, “Where are those who are being harassed?” On it, the counsel for the petitioner replied, “Zainab Umair is at the Punjab Assembly as the session continues.” The judge asked about those stopped or harassed during their way to the assembly, to which lawyer replied, “The MPAs received harassment messages from the police last (Tuesday) night.”

At this, the court asked the petitioner’s lawyer that whether the WhatsApp messages were made part of the petition.

The counsel representing the PML-N, however, opposed the petition and asked the court to dismiss the same for being non-maintainable. However, the court turned down his request.

The judge observed that harassment of and threats to lawmakers was a serious matter, and directed the petitioner’s lawyer to present the record of the WhatsApp messages, the statements of harassment, with the petition and adjourned further hearing until today (Thursday).

Zainab Umair had filed the petition and made Punjab Chief Minister Hamza Shehbaz, Rana Sanaullah, the Punjab Assembly speaker, the National Accountability Bureau (NAB) chairman, the inspector general of Punjab Police and the director general of the Federal Investigation Agency (FIA) as respondents in her petition.

The petitioner said that she was with pain and displeasure, and was forced to raise an important issue for the kind indulgence of the court with the great hope that the same might kindly be taken up on a priority basis and decided in the shortest possible time in the larger interest of public.

Zainab said she wanted the respondents to act in accordance with law and statutory mandates, and therefore the petitioner had the requisite locus standi to file the instant petition.

She submitted that in a civic society, the government officials showed high care and virtues to comply with the decisions made by the courts, but in Pakistan, it had been revealed that the civil bureaucracy was reluctant to obey the orders/decisions passed by the superior courts.

Zainab asked the court to direct the respondents not to create harassment and to freely allow all candidates and members of the provincial assembly of Punjab to participate in the assembly session so as to enforce fundamental rights read with Article 187 of the Constitution as well as articles 4, 5, 9, 10-A, 14, 15, 16, 17 of the Constitution.

She also asked the court to restrain the respondents from interfering into free and transparent election process for the selection of the Punjab chief minister after the results of by-elections, 2022, until the final disposal of the petition.

Horse trading

Meanwhile, PTI leader Mrs Zubair Niazi approached the top court with a contempt petition against Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif and others for violating court orders regarding free and fair election of the Punjab chief minister, submitting that horse-trading was at its peak in the province.

The petitioner said that the Supreme Court had clearly ordered the respondents to conduct free and fair election of the Punjab chief minister’s office but media reports suggested that the MPAs were being offered millions of rupees to change their loyalties. She said the PTI lawmakers were being asked not to vote for Chaudhry Parvez Elahi.

The petitioner said that social media platforms carried such information that despite clear orders and instructions of the top court for free and fair election, horse-trading was being done. By doing so, the respondents committed contempt of court, she said.

She said the matter was of urgent nature as the election of the Punjab chief minister was due on July 22, and asked the court for early hearing of the matter.

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