The crisis in the Supreme Court of Pakistan has deepened after another judge said that the suo motu case of delayed polls in Punjab and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KP) was dismissed by 4-3.
Former Islamabad High Court (IHCJ) Chief Justice (CJ) Justice Athar Minallah released a detailed note, agreeing with Justice Jamal Khan Mandokhail and Justice Mansoor Ali Shah “particularly regarding the final outcome of the petitions and the suo motu assumption of jurisdiction by a majority of 4 to 3 because this was the understanding in the meeting held in the anteroom on 27.02.2023. It is noted that I had not recused nor had any reason to dissociate myself.”
Justices Shah and Mandokhail had argued against the decision of taking suo motu by Chief Justice of Pakistan (CJP) Umar Ata Bandial.
Following are the main points given by Minallah in his note:
- He said that he read Mansoor Ali Shah and Mandokhail’s notes and agreed that the SC verdict was 4-3.
- Referring to Munib Akhtar’s own judgment saying CJP’s power to take suo motu and form benches has “created imbalance, which ought to be corrected,” he noted that CJP’s power to form benches under SC Rules must be exercised transparently and fairly.
- He pointed out that Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) itself went to Lahore High Court (LHC) first, which allowed petitions and directed election in 90 days. So then why should SC wade into dispute, he asked.
- Justice Minallah wrote that the court is being dragged into a political crisis, emphasising that the crisis escalated when PTI chose to resign from National Assembly instead of sitting in Opposition. He further said that the dissolution of the provincial assemblies was part of a political strategy.
- Says SC has the duty to inspire public trust and not appear politically partisan. Everyone (including SC) has to take a step back and not stand on ego.
- He called the political climate in the country “toxic”, saying that “it is inconceivable that political parties will even agree to have a dialogue, let alone arriving at a consensus.”
- He said: “It is the duty of the Court to ensure that political stakeholders are not encouraged to bring their disputes to the courts for judicial settlement by bypassing the institutions and forums created under the Constitution. It weakens the Majlise-Shoora (Parliament) and the forums meant for political dialogue and, simultaneously, harm the judicial branch of the State by prejudicing public trust in its independence and impartiality.”
- “When politicians do not approach the appropriate forums and bring their disputes to the courts, the former may win or lose the case, but inevitably the court is the loser”, he ended the note.