PTI and PML(Q) have regained power in Punjab, the largest province of the country, as a consequence of a verdict of the three-member bench of the Supreme Court and in a fast move Ch.
Pervez Elahi was administered the oath as Chief Minister of the province by President Dr. Arif Alvi.
The bench, headed by Chief Justice Umar Ata Bandial, declared ruling of Deputy Speaker of the Punjab Assembly Dost Muhammad Mazari as null and void under which the Dy.
Speaker had rejected 10 votes cast by MPAs belonging to PML(Q) in favour of PTI’s candidate Ch. Pervez Elahi during voting for the election of Chief Minister following a letter written by the head of the party Ch. Shujaat Hussain that his party would not vote for the candidate of Imran Khan.
The court, on a petition by Ch. Pervez Elahi, declared him winner and directed the provincial Chief Secretary to issue a notification of his victory.
The verdict of the apex court on the controversial elections has legal, constitutional and political connotations and implications.
It was for the first time that the Federal Government, consisting of several mainstream political parties, boycotted proceedings of this important case following rejection of the demand that the case should be heard by the full bench of the apex court.
Serious questions have been raised about the very interpretation of the Article-63A by the top court in response to a presidential reference (filed by the then PTI Government), which is being dubbed as re-writing of the Constitution, a function that is vested only in Parliament and that too with two-thirds majority.
Similarly, the legal community and the political parties/leadership are also divided on the question whether elected members have to vote on directions of the party head or the parliamentary leader.
The judiciary definitely has the power to hear and decide legal and constitutional issues but there are legitimate concerns about the practice of formation of benches to the exclusion of others, who are seen as upright, principled and uncompromising.
Formation of the full court on this sensitive issue would have resolved it once for all and made acceptable to all but the decision of the court to reject the demand and the verdict by the bench on which the coalition parties expressed no-confidence would make things murkier as the verdict is likely to sharpen the political divide as well as inter-institutional tension and confrontation.
PTI has hailed the judgement of the court saying justice has been done and the mandate of the people of the province has been respected.
According to Vice President of the Party, Shah Mahmood Qureshi, the supremacy of the Constitution has been accepted adding that the people of Punjab had sent a clear message on July 17 that they had wholeheartedly accepted a narrative that Imran Khan had presented to the nation.
On the other hand, the coalition leaders have decried the verdict terming it as ‘judicial coup’, claiming that the order has made mockery of Pakistan.
Reacting to the decision, Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif warned that the Constitution has entrusted state powers to Parliament, Executive and Judiciary, vowing they would not compromise on supremacy of the Constitution.
The PML(N) has also asserted that it would not accept the ‘one-sided’ decision and now approach the people’s court.
Similar views have also been expressed by leaders of other coalition parties with suggestions to clip unrestrained powers of the Chief Justice of Pakistan.
In this backdrop, one can understand in which direction the country could go in the weeks to come and that too at a time when national unity is required to address a multitude of problems and challenges confronting Pakistan.
People of Pakistan, especially those of Punjab, have been denied stability for months and now much depends on the policies and posture of the new Chief Minister.Ch. Pervez Elahi is a seasoned politician and has a demonstrated capability of managing affairs of the province efficiently and as per expectations of its people.
Political parties are entitled to fight for their cause but now that PTI and Ch. Pervez Elahi have regained Punjab, they should make conscientious efforts to lower political tension so that the Government is able to focus on delivery.
The administrative machinery stands paralyzed in an uncertain environment whereas incessant rains and the flood situation requires a proactive approach to mitigate sufferings of the people.