The Lahore High Court (LHC) on Tuesday issued notices to Punjab Chief Minister Hamza Shehbaz, the Attorney General for Pakistan and others on the second petition filed by the PTI requesting the court to declare the PML-N leader’s election as CM “illegal” and to restrain him from working in that capacity.
Hamza was elected as the Punjab CM on April 16, during a provincial assembly session that was marred by mayhem. He received a total of 197 votes — 11 more than the required 186 — including from 25 dissident PTI MPAs that were crucial for his victory.
Since then, a series of petitions have challenged Hamza’s election as the chief minister, with two from the PTI, and one from the PML-Q.
The PTI first approached the LHC last month on May 19. That petition was filed by five Punjab Assembly members of the party — Sibtain Khan, Zainab Umair, Mian Aslam Iqbal, Syed Abbas Ali Shah and Ahsan Saleem Baryar — and is being heard by LHC Chief Justice Muhammad Ameer Bhatti.
The following day, Punjab Assembly Speaker Pervaiz Elahi submitted his petition, which his lawyer, Safdar Shaheen Pirzada, had said in a comment to Dawn was identical to PTI’s. During the hearing on May 20, Justice Bhatti clubbed the two petitions together.
On June 1, the PTI, once again, moved the court against Hamza after the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) de-seated 25 MPAs for defecting in the election of the chief minister and the opinion of the Supreme Court, stating that the votes of defectors should not be counted.
The plea was filed by PTI’s Punjab Assembly lawmakers Zainab Umair, Shamsa Ali and Umum Banin Ali, and was accepted for hearing yesterday, in the court of Justice Shujaat Ali Khan.
At the outset of the hearing today, Assistant Advocate General Tayyab Jan raised an objection to the petition and demanded that it should be dismissed instantly.
He contended that matters of Parliament were not supposed to be brought to court. “The petitioners in the case are members of the Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf. They have the right to consult the Assembly.”
“They can even bring a no-confidence motion against Hamza,” Jan added.
Here, Advocate Azhar Siddique, the petitioners’ counsel, argued that after the Supreme Court’s analysis of Article 63-A of the Constitution, which deals with defection by parliamentarians, the position of dissident PTI MPAs had become clear.
“Hence, after subtracting the votes of the defecting lawmakers, Hamza no longer holds the majority to remain as the chief minister of the province,” Siddique said.
The court, subsequently, issued notices to Hamza, the AGP, Advocate General of Punjab and the provincial secretary and summoned written responses from them by June 20.
THE PETITION: The party’s petition that was heard today was filed by MPA Zainab Umair, MPA Shamsa Ali and MPA Umul Banin Ali.
It stated that the Punjab CM election held on April 16 under the supervision of Deputy Speaker Dost Mazari, which declared Hamza as the new chief executive, was “without lawful authority” and was in negation of the Constitution.
It noted that votes of 25 dissident PTI MPAs were also counted in the final tally for Hamza. While then-governor Omar Sarfraz Cheema had refused to accept the election results, Hamza was administered oath due to “judicial overreach”, it contended.
According to the petition, Hamza’s election was in violation of the Constitution and the Rules of Business of the Punjab Assembly. It recalled that Hamza had approached the LHC for holding the election, adding that he treated it as an urgent matter because he had the support of 25 dissident PTI MPAs, which was a violation of Article 63 of the Constitution.
An analysis of the Supreme Court’s interpretation would lead to the conclusion that the chief minister’s election was unlawful, it stated.
“On this ground alone and keeping in view the scope and intent behind Article 63-A of the Constitution, the election held on 16.04.2022 [should] be declared as being without lawful authority and consequently be struck down.”
The petition requested the LHC to declare Hamza’s election void ab initio (illegal) “in the interest of justice and fair play”.
It also requested the court to declare the office of the chief minister vacant and stop Hamza from working and portraying himself as the chief executive.