Pakistan’s Supreme Court has struck down Deputy Speaker Dost Muhammad Mazari’s ruling on Punjab chief minister’s election, declaring Prime Minister Shahbaz Sharif’s son Hamza Shahbaz’s election as Chief Minister of Punjab province , null and void.
The verdict delivered a big but expected blow to the coalition government as it saw PML-N’s Hamza Shehbaz lose his status of the “trustee” chief minister, while his rival Parvez Elahi, who had PTI’s backing, will now take over the position as per the top court’s order, English newspaper, Daily Dawn reported.
A three-member bench comprising Chief Justice of Pakistan (CJP) Umar Ata Bandial and Justices Ijazul Ahsan and Munib Akhtar announced the decision.
During the election, Mazari, the deputy speaker, had decided against counting the votes of 10 PML-Q lawmakers, which were cast in Elahi’s favour, citing a letter written by party President Chaudhry Shujaat Hussain in which he had instructed them to vote for Hamza instead. That decision had tipped the balance in Hamza’s favour — an advantage the SC reversed in its verdict on Tuesday night.
The top court, in its short order, declared all the appointments made by Hamza “illegal” and told the members of his cabinet to vacate their offices.
All of the advisers and assistants appointed by Hamza were also ordered to be relieved of their duties.
The top court ordered for the issuance of Elahi’s notification as the new Punjab chief minister immediately, also instructing the governor to take his oath .
In case the governor does not administer oath to Elahi, President Dr Arif Alvi can do so instead, the court ruled.
Ahead of the verdict, JUI-F leader Maulana Fazlur Rehman paid the PML-Q chief a visit at his residence in Lahore.
Earlier today, the counsel for Punjab Assembly Deputy Speaker Dost Mohammad Mazari, Irfan Qadir, informed the Supreme Court that his client had instructed him not to participate further in the case proceedings and he would instead file a petition for review of the court’s decision not to constitute a full bench.
PPP counsel Farooq H. Naek also declined to participate in the court proceedings. However, they both stayed in the courtroom and watched the proceedings.
The ruling coalition had said yesterday it would boycott the proceedings in protest.
Meanwhile, the federal inforamtion Minister, Marriyum Aurangzeb has termed the supreme court verdict as a ‘ judicial coup’.
She said Imran’s letter was acceptable and 25 MPAs were defeated because of it while Shujaat’s letter was considered “haram”.
Aurangzeb said this was the precise reason why the government and its coalition allies had demanded a full court bench, adding that justice was not seen to be done since the current bench was formed.
The information minister said it did not matter if Hamza was the chief minister or not since Punjab’s mandate belonged to the PML-N.
PML-N supremo Nawaz Sharif said Pakistan had been subjected to mockery. In veiled criticism with hint of sarcasm, the party founder wrote: “salute to the three judges”.
The opposition camp, meanwhile, breathed a sigh of relief as PTI leader Fawad Chaudhry said the Supreme Court ‘”restored” the Constitution with its ruling and termed it a victory for democracy.
Senior PTI leader Shireen Mazari said the apex court’s verdict was a “reversal of US regime change conspiracy”.