Punjab Assembly Deputy Speaker Dost Mohammad Mazari failed to appear before the Supreme Court (SC) in a plea filed by PML-Q leader Chaudhry Pervaiz Elahi challenging his ruling during the chief minister’s re-election on Friday night.
Instead, Mazari’s lawyer attended the hearing, which is being held at the SC’s Lahore registry.
The hearing was momentarily paused due to the presence of a large number of people in the courtroom. Before the hearing resumed, arrangements were made in another courtroom for other lawyers and people watching the proceedings on a video screen to ease the rush.
A number of PTI leaders are present at the court, including Asad Umar, Fawad Chaudhry, Sibtain Khan, Usman Buzdar and Zain Qureshi.
The court had summoned Mazari at 2:30pm after taking up the petition earlier on Saturday.
A three-member bench comprising Chief Justice of Pakistan Umar Ata Bandial, Justice Ijazul Ahsan and Justice Munib Akhtar, had directed Mazari to submit the complete record of yesterday’s re-election to the court.
The court had also asked him to specify the paragraph in its opinion on Article 63 (A) on which he had based his ruling in the CM election.
The bench had also issued notices to Punjab Chief Minister Hamza Shehbaz, Attorney General for Pakistan Ashtar Ausaf, Advocate General of Punjab Shahzad Shaukat and the Punjab chief secretary.
The bench issued the directives while hearing Elahi’s petition, which was filed late last night, after a contentious ruling by the Punjab Assembly deputy speaker led to his defeat — despite having a majority — and Hamza Shehbaz’s re-elections as the province’s chief executive.
At the outset of the hearing, Elahi’s counsel Barrister Ali Zafar informed the court that in the run-off election yesterday Hamza secured 179 votes against his client’s 186.
But the deputy speaker rejected 10 votes of PML-Q lawmakers on the grounds of a letter, purportedly sent by PML-Q President Shujaat, the lawyer said.
During the hearing, Elahi informed the court that Hamza had taken oath as the chief minister.
However, Chief Justice Bandial responded: “It does not matter. We have to discuss the law and the Constitution.”
The court then summoned Mazari and adjourned the hearing till 2:30pm.
When the hearing resumed, Mazari’s lawyer submitted the deputy speaker’s vakalatnama.
When Justice Ahsan questioned why Mazari had not appeared, his counsel Irfan Qadir replied that he was present to assist the court.
Separately, the chief justice observed that a large number of people were present in the courtroom. Suspending the hearing for some time, he said it would resume when only relevant people were remaining.
The hearing resumed afterward, and Advocate General Punjab Shahzad Shaukat was presenting his arguments.
PTI DECISION: Speaking to the media outside the court after the SC summoned Mazari, PTI leader Asad Umar said the apex court’s ruling on the matter was expected today, after which Imran would announce the next plan of action for all Pakistanis who believed in Haqiqi Azadi (true freedom).
He described the deputy speaker’s ruling as the “last hiccup of a dying system in which [some] families have been imposed on Pakistan”.
Former foreign minister PTI leader Shah Mahmood Qureshi, who was also present on the occasion, criticised Zardari and said Shujaat’s letter had no “constitutional value” as it had not been circulated among lawmakers.
“That the deputy speaker kept it in his pocket shows there’s mala fide,” he remarked.
After the SC summoned Mazari, Umar separately tweeted the court had made the matter “very simple” now.
“[The court] has summoned the deputy speaker at 2pm. Let us also know where the Supreme Court said in its ruling that the party chief had the authority to give instructions regarding voting. The Constitution is very clear that it is the authority of the parliamentary party,” he said.
PTI leader Fawad Chaudhry also criticised Deputy Speaker Mazari for his ruling, saying: “[The] deputy speaker has not relied on any parliamentary tradition and has actually weakened parliament by making parliamentary party redundant. [The] only way we can change the course is democracy within parties, [and the] empowerment of parliamentary party is a leap forward in this direction.”
However, Interior Minister Rana Sanaullah defended the deputy speaker’s ruling, saying that the PTI had celebrated when the votes of its 25 dissident lawmakers, who had backed Hamza in the April 16 election for the Punjab CM’s slot, were discounted in light of the SC’s decision.
“When our votes were rejected, Asad Umar had said PTI chairperson Imran Khan had instructed all party members to vote for Elahi. So is Chaudhry Shujaat Hussain not the head of the PML-Q?” he questioned.