PML-N Vice President Maryam Nawaz said on 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 Fazal-ur-Rehman, and others, 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 press conference by the coalition government comes ahead of the significant Supreme Court hearing on Pervaiz 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 apex 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 Qasim 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 he criticised the justices.

Three people cannot decide country’s fate, says Bilawal

PPP chairperson Bilawal Bhutto-Zardari, 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 re-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.

MAULANA FAZAL: JUI-F chief Maulana Fazal said that he did 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,” Fazal said.

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

Maulana Fazal endorsed Maryam’s view saying that fingers were being pointed at the judiciary.

He said that the government wanted to strengthen the judiciary so that their decisions spoke for themselves. “They shouldn’t have any conflict or give the impression of being biased.”

He said that a government given the mandate by the people was not being allowed to function. He went on to say that when a government was not formed as per the will of the country’s institutions, a new setup was imposed through rigging.

“Institutions meddle in political affairs to protect the state but do they ever think that the state is weakened due to their interference?” he asked.

“You are sitting behind a wall. You may decide whatever you want […] and make politicians the culprit in the eyes of the public and defame them. But hold yourself accountable.”

He said that the government did not expect any justice from the current bench and reiterated the government’s demand for a full bench.

He went on to say that the government supported what Maryam said earlier, saying that this was their “united stance”.

“Don’t take this nation to a point where people rebel against institutions,” he said.

He said that the people’s confidence in the country’s institutions needed to be restored but the latter should also assess their role and hold themselves accountable.

“We want to make country’s future brighter but for that, stability for the government is important […] We are united on the fact that we have to set the economy right but let us do it.”

The JUI-F said that it was very easy to “create difficulties”.

“If you expect us to not create any difficulties for you, then it is also your obligation to not create difficulties for us […] if there’s support for parliament, institutions and the government, the country will stabilise.”

More to follow

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