‘Bench-fixing a crime like match-fixing’: coalition govt demands full court hearing in Punjab CM case

ISLAMABAD: PML-N Vice President Maryam Nawaz said Monday that “bench-fixing” is a crime similar to “match-fixing” and suo motu notice should be taken over it as she criticised a “specific” anti-PML-N bench being constituted for one-sided decisions.

Maryam, in a joint press conference alongside the coalition government leaders, including Foreign Minister Bilawal Bhutto-Zardari and JUI-F chief Maulana Fazl ur Rehman, Interior Minister Rana Sanaullah, said: “Institutions are insulted from within, not outside. One wrong decision blows up an entire case. Criticism isn’t needed where the right decisions are taken”.

The presser by the coalition government comes ahead of the significant Supreme Court hearing on Pervez Elahi’s plea challenging Punjab Assembly Deputy Speaker Dost Mazari’s ruling which called the recent re-election for the Punjab chief minister in favour of Hamza Shahbaz.

Maryam said that ever since Hamza became the chief minister, PTI leaders have been repeatedly approaching SC — and this time, they jumped over the walls of the top court.

Referring to the PTI’s petition against the chief minister’s July 22 election, Maryam said that the SC’s doors were opened late at night and the registrar gave “sufficient time” to the party to draft its appeal.

“This is not what happens in our justice system,” she said, adding that the PTI was given ample time to draft its petition by the registrar, while the common man is given months for the date of hearing.

Noting that the judiciary interfered when Hamza was elected, she asked why the SC didn’t call former NA deputy speaker Qasim Suri for violating the Constitution.

In a detailed verdict, the SC had noted that President Arif Alvi, then-prime minister Imran Khan, then-NA deputy speaker Suri, and then-law minister Fawad Chaudhry had violated their authority and constitution — when they avoided Khan from being ousted through a no-confidence vote on April 3.

“The court called Punjab Assembly’s deputy speaker to court […] so why didn’t it call Qasim Suri to the stand?” the PML-N leader questioned, as she criticised the justices.

Moving on, the PML-N leader said that the court’s interpretation of the constitution changes when there is a change in the party head — the decisions are different for Imran Khan and PML-N supremo Nawaz Sharif.

Maryam said that if the party’s head is Nawaz, he will be convicted on a “trivial issue” such as the residence permit (iqama) — referring to the Panama Papers case.

Maryam said that during former prime minister Khan’s tenure, the country witnessed a downfall in all sectors and the courts played “an important” role in that.

The PML-N leader asked which crime had Khan not committed; he was involved in inciting violence, attacking property, and in the attack on Parliament and the PTV.

“Did any court take suo motu notice against Khan? Are the suo motus only for the PML-N and its allies?” she asked.

Criticising the judges for the recent remarks during the “Azadi March” hearing, Maryam said that despite PTI blatantly violating the court’s orders, the party was still given leverage.

“After he blatantly violated the orders, the judge said that maybe he didn’t receive the order; they also said maybe they burnt the green belt to save themselves from tear gas.”

Maryam said that the courts were opened at night for former federal minister Shireen Mazari, but she was kept in jail for five months and not given bail.

“The country’s [situation] is not under control, the global community is not happy with us; this is all due to Khan and the court’s decisions,” Maryam added.

JUI-F chief Maulana Fazlur Rehman expressed that he does not expect justice from the current bench — headed by Chief Justice Umar Ata Bandial, and comprising Justice Ijaz Ul Ahsan and Justice Munib Akhtar — and said that he fully backs all claims of Maryam.

“That’s the reason we have been demanding a full bench to hear the case so that justice can be ensured,” Fazl said, adding that the more consensus there is, the more we hope the decision will be on merit.

The JUI-F chief said that the institutions should introspect their roles and overcome their drawbacks as he stressed self-accountability.

PPP chairperson Bilawal Bhutto, too, reiterated that the coalition government only has one demand: the formation of a full bench to hear the case related to the Punjab CM’s election.

“This cannot happen that three people decide the fate of this country. Three people cannot decide on whether this country will run on a democratic, elected or selective system,” he said.

He repeated: “It cannot be possible that three people change Pakistan’s 1973 Constitution with just the stroke of a pen”.

Bilawal said we want the country to run through a democratic process. He said that we can see that some people, who wanted to make this country a “one-unit” system”, can’t digest that Pakistan is moving closer to democratic norms and that the public is making its own decisions.

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