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Supreme Court allows Hamza Shehbaz to continue as interim CM till Monday

Court bars PML-N leader from making any big decisions, says Hamza cannot exercise powers that can politically benefit him

The Supreme Court has allowed Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) leader Hamza Shehbaz to continue as the interim chief minister of Punjab till the resumption of the next hearing on Monday.

The decision came following the hearing in which Punjab Assembly Deputy Speaker Dost Mazari had been summoned regarding the ruling he gave during the run-off elections for Punjab’s chief minister on Friday, wherein he had disregarded the votes of 10 Pakistan Muslim League-Quaid (PML-Q) members and declared Hamza Shehbaz, with a lesser number of votes, as chief minister.

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During the hearing on Saturday, the apex court sought a written reply from both the Punjab government and the deputy speaker.

“We will take up this case in Islamabad,” observed CJ Umar Ata Bandial while hearing the matter.

The SC adjourned further hearing till Monday.

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The SC, however, barred incumbent interim Punjab CM Hamza from making any big decisions, observing that the illegal appointments would also be set aside if there were any.

“Hamza Shahbaz will serve as trustee Punjab CM,” observed the court, but held that he could not exercise powers in a manner that would politically benefit him.

“We can’t leave Punjab without governance,” CJ Bandial observed, pointing out that the confusion prevailing in the system could not be allowed.

Earlier, Advocate General Punjab Shahzad Shaukat pleaded with the court to give time to prepare arguments.

Fawad Chaudhary, Mehmood-ur-Rasheed, Farrukh Habib and many other PTI leaders were also present in the courtroom.

Attorney General for Pakistan Ashtar Ausaf was out of the country and an additional attorney general appeared before the court.

The Supreme Court had summoned Punjab Assembly Deputy Speaker Dost Muhammad Mazari, along with the relevant record, on petitions filed by PML-Q leader Chaudhary Pervez Elahi and PTI leaders challenging the outcome of the run-off election of Punjab chief minister.

A three-member bench led by Chief Justice Umar Ata Bandial took up the petitions at the SC Lahore Registry. Justice Ijazul Ahsan and Justice Munib Akhtar were the other members of the bench.

“We want to hear the deputy speaker personally in the matter,” CJ Bandial observed while summoning Deputy Speaker Mazari.

The CJ remarked that it was only Mazari who could tell the court exactly which paragraph he was referring to at the time of the ruling.

The top court had directed Mazari to appear before it at 2:00pm on Saturday.

The court also issued notices to all relevant parties including chief minister, and Punjab advocate general in the matter.

During the proceedings, Justice Ahsan asked about the number of lawmakers in the provincial assembly to which PTI lawyer Barrister Ali Zafar replied that there had been 370 members at the time of votes’ count.

Zafar informed the court that it was a re-election of the Punjab CM in yesterday’s session.

He argued that Elahi bagged 186 votes and Hamza could get 179 votes, therefore, in line with the constitution of Pakistan, the PML-Q leader was the chief minister.

The lawyer also argued that the SC’s opinion in the May order had held that the parliamentary party could  give directions to lawmakers on whom to vote for, and the PML-Q’s parliamentary party decided to back Elahi. However despite that, he contended, Mazari rejected 10 PML-Q votes.

He asked the court to set aside the ruling for being against the law.

On Friday night, the PTI and the PML-Q approached the Supreme Court Lahore Registry to challenge the votes’ count and decision of Punjab Assembly Deputy Speaker Dost Muhammad Mazari, declaring PML-N leader Hamza Shehbaz as winner in the run-off election of Punjab CM.

All 186 lawmakers of both PTI and the PML-Q reached the Supreme Court Lahore Registry to file their petitions.

They approached the top court after Punjab Assembly Deputy Speaker Dost Muhammad Mazari rejected the 10 votes of PML-Q by interpreting the opinion of the Supreme Court on Article 63-A of the constitution, and declared PML-N leader Hamza Shehbaz as the winner.

The lawyers of both the parties, who prepared the petitions soon after the announcement of the ruling, filed them late night on Friday.

SC Deputy Registrar Ejaz Goraya received the petitions at the SC Lahore Registry.

The petitioners wanted the Supreme Court to immediately take up the matter,  hoping that the doors of the top court would be opened for them at night.

They had reached there directly from the Punjab Assembly.

Chaudhary Pervez Elahi, who was the candidate in the run-off election of the Punjab CM against PML-N candidate Hamza Shehbaz, declared the ruling of Punjab Deputy Speaker Dost Muhammad Mazari as against the constitution.

“Deputy speaker must be tried under Article 6 of the Constitution,” said Chaudhary Pervez Elahi, adding that he [the deputy speaker] violated the Constitution and also committed contempt of court by calling in police there on the assembly premises.

Elahi said they had a majority in the provincial assembly but the outcome was totally against him.

When asked about Chaudhary Shujaat Hussain and his letter, Pervez Elahi said, “Leave the matter of Chaudhary Shujaat at the moment, because it is all about the law and the Constitution.”

“We have to talk about the deputy speaker. He violated the Constitution,” he said angrily. Raja Basharat, the senior leader of the PML-Q, however, reacted to the decision of Chaudhry Shujaat Hussain, saying that he did not have the authority to write that letter.

He raised another important question about the letter Chaudhary Shujaat had released before the election, questioning why it was kept hidden and not disclosed to the PML-Q leaders.

“If letter had already been received by the deputy speaker before commencement of the election then why was it not disclosed,” he asked, pointing out that the deputy speaker disclosed the letter after completion of the election process.

“Such attitude of the deputy speaker speaks volumes of his bad intention,” said Basharat, holding Mazari responsible for a pre-planned ‘rigging’.

He regretted the counting of votes as well. He said there had been two candidates, but the votes’ count was announced separately for the PTI and the PML-Q.

“Chaudhary Pervez Ealhi was the joint candidate of both PTI and the PML-Q but the votes’ count was announced separately. It was another malafide intention of the deputy speaker,” he added.

The PML-Q also stated that the 10 voters of the party had already cast their votes to Elahi in the first round, so the first round was evident of the fact that the same would be considered for the second phase [Friday’s session].

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