ISLAMABAD: In an act of open defiance, the National Assembly and the federal cabinet dominated by members of the ruling coalition refused to follow the Supreme Court ruling that set May 14 as the election date in Punjab, with Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif labeling the decision a “murder of justice.”
Lawmakers in the lower house of parliament, where the judiciary has come under fire for its latest decision, declared categorically that the decision would not be implemented at any cost and demanded a full court hearing on the matter a demand long held by the government.
They asked Chief Justice Umar Ata Bandial to “rethink and constitute a full court bench” to resolve the crisis, drawing parallels between the decision that led to Zulfikar Ali Bhutto’s hanging and the election date ruling.
Speaking on the floor of the National Assembly, Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif compared the decision to Zulfikar Ali Bhutto’s ‘judicial murder,’ saying that “his murder took place on April 4, 1979, and on the same date (today), the unfortunate episode was repeated” through the polls ruling.
“Two decisions were made today, murder of Bhutto and murder of justice, which is deeply regrettable,” Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif said during a National Assembly session.
The apex executive body directed the legal team to find ways to overturn the decision during a meeting of the federal cabinet, which categorically rejected the verdict.
“The prime minister has directed me and the attorney general to provide a legal opinion on the Supreme Court’s decision, which has been made in such a way that it has negated the country’s judicial system,” Law Minister Azam Nazeer Tarar said on the floor of the National Assembly after the cabinet huddle.
The verdict on Punjab elections would exacerbate the country’s constitutional and political crises, he said, adding, “We have reservations about the decision, and our legal team will decide on the next course of action after consultations.”
Mr. Tarar stated that the government desired free and fair elections throughout the country at the same time.
According to Article 224, general elections should be held at the same time across the country, while Article 254 allows for polls to be postponed due to an extraordinary situation.
The lone voice of opposition
The only voice in support of the Supreme Court came from Mohsin Leghari, a newly elected PTI MNA from Rajanpur, who asked Speaker Raja Pervaiz Ashraf not to allow members to discuss the conduct of judges in accordance with the Constitution.
PTI MNA also defended his party’s chairman, Imran Khan, and asked members not to target the Supreme Court judges or Mr. Khan because they were not in the house to defend themselves.
“I pay my respects to the CJP. “There is no doubt and no room for doubt that elections must be held within 90 days,” said PTI MNA, adding that courts must make decisions based on justice without fear of the consequences. The NA session was adjourned by the speaker until Wednesday (today) morning.