The Supreme Court adjourned the proceedings on a set of petitions seeking general elections in the country within 90 days of the dissolution of the National Assembly.
A three-judge bench of the apex court, headed by Chief Justice of Pakistan Qazi Faez Isa, is hearing the petitions. Justice Athar Minallah and Justice Aminuddin Khan are also on the bench. The proceedings were adjourned till Novermber 2.
The court also issued notices to the election commission and the federal government in the case.
Petitioner Abid Zuberi was present in court, while PTI lawyer Ali Zafar and petitioner Ibadur Rehman appeared through a video link.
The court noted that according to the petitioners, the election commission had started the delimitation process after the census, which is said to be completed by December 14.
The petitioners are not satisfied with the process of census, its approval and delimitation of constituencies and deemed the whole process an excuse to delay elections, the court noted further.
The petitioners said that holding the elections within 90 days was a constitutional requirement, while it has not been possible after the delimitation of constituencies and the recent census, the court said.
It further said that the petitioners were of the opinion that if the case is decided today, the elections will not be possible in 90 days.
The CJP told Abid Zuberi this wasn’t a political forum to make political statements, adding he was the SCBA president, not a political party’s lawyer. “Problems arise when lawyers try to become politicians,” he added.
Justice Minallah suggested holding the people responsible for delaying the census.
On being asked by the CJP if elections can be held in 90 days if the case was decided today, Abid Zuberi replied in the negative. The CJP then asked him to amend the petition.
CJP Isa also asked what action can be taken against the president for not giving a date for elections. The lawyer suggested an order be issued to restore the court’s writ. The CJP said anyone violating the Constitution is liable for action under Article 6.
If a census is a constitutional requirement for holding elections, then a delay is understandable, Justice Minallah remarked.
The CJP reprimanded the petitioner Munir Ahmed’s lawyer for apparently not coming to the court fully prepared about the case and instead holding lengthy debates on TV. “If we fix a case for hearing, it’s a problem and if we don’t, even then it’s a problem,” he added.
He told the lawyer to contest the case on TV instead.
Abid Zuberi told the court that according to the Constitution, it was the duty of the president to announce date for elections, however after the amendment to the Elections Act the authority has been given to the election commission. He also held the commission responsible for not announcing a date for elections.
CJP Isa asked if the petitioner Omar Ayub Khan of the PTI condemned the decision of his grandfather Gen Ayub Khan to dissolve the assembly by violating the 1956 Constitution. “Has Omar Ayub become democratic?” the CJP asked.
Earlier, Abid Zuberi told the court that the Supreme Court Bar Association had challenged the August 5 decision of the Council of Common Interests (CCI).
On being asked by the CJP when he filed the petition and why it wasn’t fixed till now, Zuberi said they filed it in August.
“We have been given notice by the court staff that you did not request an early hearing," said Justice Isa.
This should have been an urgent matter, he remarked, asking when the census took place. Had the case been fixed on time, it would have been decided by now, the CJP remarked.
The counsel said it had been requested that the Election Commission be ordered to ensure elections in 90 days, and nullify the order of the Council of Common Interests regarding publishing the census results.
Justice Isa asked if a census was a constitutional requirement. Abid Zuberi replied in the positive.
If the 2017 census is not finalized, there will be a difference in the data, CJP Isa said.
“If the current census is not accepted, the elections will be held on the basis of the 2017 census,” Justice Aminuddin Khan said.
“If the current census is annulled, what will be your plea? Will you ask for a census again or ask for elections to be held on the previous one?” asked the CJP.
“Caretaker governments are constitutional, you have written unconstitutional,” the CJP questioned.
“We have demanded that the participation of two caretaker chief ministers in the Council of Common Interests meeting should be declared unconstitutional,” Zuberi responded.
Justice Minallah said that if the petitioners got into the current census, elections could face a further delay.