ISLAMABAD: The Supreme Court on Thursday ruled that its judgment passed on April 4, fixing May 14 as the date for holding elections to the Punjab Assembly, was in the field and binding on all judicial and executive authorities in the country.
A three-member bench of the apex court, headed by Chief Justice Umar Ata Bandial and comprising Justice Ijazul Ahsen and Justice Munib Akhtar, heard the petition of Sardar Kashif Khan seeking to hold general elections to the National Assembly and provincial assemblies on the same date.
The court adjourned the hearing until April 27 after Attorney General (AG) Mansoor Awan and Farooq H Naek of Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) met the bench in the Chamber and apprised the judges about deliberations among the senior cabinet members and their interaction with a senior officer-bearer of the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI).
They submitted that a break was being taken on account of the Eid-ul-Fitr holidays because several political leaders and party heads had left or were leaving Islamabad for their hometowns to celebrate Eid.
They informed the bench that a meeting had been scheduled among the political leaders on April 26 and the progress will be reported to the court on April 27. Later, the court adjourned the matter until April 27 for further proceedings.
Meanwhile, the court, after issuing its written order in the matter, held that its judgment rendered in the petition on delay in the elections had already fixed the date of elections to the Punjab Provincial Assembly as May 14, 2023. “That judgment holds the field and, therefore, its ruling is binding on all judicial and executive authorities in the country under Article 189 and Article 190 of the Constitution,” said the order.
“Supreme Court’s decision of holding polls on May 14 will not be taken back,” said CJP Bandial. He added that no political party leader termed the decision on polls incorrect. “Negotiations can be successful if it’s a two-way street. It is requested that the party leaders sit today, rather than after Eid,” said CJP Bandial.
He also suggested that elections can be held in July after Eid-ul-Azha as suggested by JI chief. At this, PPP’s counsel stated that the ruling alliance will talk to Maulana Fazlur Rehman during the Eid holidays.
The court appreciated and welcomed the proposal that the first meeting of the representatives of all political parties is held today (Thursday).
The court then adjourned the matter till 4:00 pm and the AG was directed to report the progress made in the matter in the Chamber.
Earlier, pursuant to the court’s order of April 19, the representatives of the federation and the senior leadership of all political parties appeared before the court on Thursday and informed the court of the position of their parties on a political dialogue being held for settling a single date for holding general elections to National Assembly and four provincial assemblies.
On behalf of PPP, Farooq H Naek informed the court that a process for conducting such dialogue had been initiated within the coalition partners of the Pakistan Democratic Movement (PDM) and that it was agreed that heads of all the political parties would meet with the opposition parties to arrive at a consensus date for holding the general elections to the five assemblies simultaneously.
Khawaja Saad Rafique appeared on behalf of the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PMLN) and endorsed the statement made on behalf of the PPP. He also expressed the willingness of his party to enter into negotiations with all political parties to arrive at a consensus date.
Similarly, PPP’s Qamar Zaman Kaira, MQMP’s Engineer Sabir Hussain Kaimkhani, PMLQ’s Tariq Bashir Cheema, BAP’s Israr Ullah Tareen and BNP-Mengal’s Sardar Ayaz Sadiq also supported before the court the views of Farooq H Naek and Saad Rafique.
Likewise, PTI Vice Chairman Shah Mahmood Qureshi assured the court that notwithstanding the misgivings of his party with the political environment and disposition, his party was willing to move forward within the framework of the Constitution to negotiate on an agreed date for holding general elections to the five assemblies simultaneously.
Qureshi, however, emphasised that the process of negotiations should not be open-ended and not be turned into a ploy for delaying elections. He said that such a process should be regulated by a time-frame, failing which the court’s decision for general elections for the provincial assembly of Punjab to be held on May 14, 2023 be complied. Similarly, Jamaat-e-Islami Ameer Siraj-ul-Haq also appeared before the court.
“Having heard the positive statements of the political leadership of the country representing all major political parties with respect to the simultaneous holding of general elections of the National Assembly and four provincial assemblies gives cause for optimism that they would agree to an election date sooner rather than later,” the court order said.
“However, the court is also impressed to note that all political leaders affirmed their fidelity to the Constitution of Pakistan, which is supreme and must be adhered to,” the order further noted. “We are cognisant that if political dialogue extends to address all grievances, then it is likely to be a lengthy process and the correct forum for that is the political arena and political institutions,” said the order.
However, the court did not find any reservations to the negotiations being centred solely on a one-point agenda, namely, the consensual fixation of a date for the holding of general elections on the same date.