Supreme Court (SC) Judge Justice Qazi Faez Isa observed on Thursday that Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf's Punjab government had ‘killed’ democracy by the dissolution of the local government system in the province before the expiry date.
A two-judge apex bench, comprising Justice Isa and Justice Maqbool Baqar, heard the petition of a case related to local-body elections in the country.
“You killed democracy. It is unconstitutional. It’s worse than dictatorship,” said Justice Isa while addressing Additional Advocate General Punjab Qasim Chohan who was asked to give reasons regarding the dissolution of the LG system in Punjab.
Justice Isa, referring Article 6 of Constitution, noted that that is a violation of the Constitution by Punjab government. He further said that the Punjab government did what was done in East Pakistan, where people were disenfranchised.
Another member of the apex bench, Justice Maqbool Baqar, wondered how the Punjab government could snatch the mandate of the people.
Justice Baqar questioned how long should the court stay silent over unconstitutional acts as well as the government's drive to curb media freedom. Those who want to remain silent, they should, but we will speak a s long as we can, said Justice Baqar.
When the bench ‘hypothetically’ asked Attorney General Pakistan Khalid Jawed Khan about the dissolution of any government before the expiry date, he admitted that no elected government should be packed unconstitutionally.
The AGP said that he was consistently against the toppling of elected government through Article 58 (2) of the Constitution.
During the hearing, both judges also expressed serious concern over the state restrictions on media freedom. Justice Isa asked the AGP whether media was free in Pakistan. The AGP remained silent.
Later Justice Isa questioned media persons, who were present in the courtroom, to raise hands who believed that media was free in Pakistan. Interestingly, none of the media workers raised their hand.
Regarding Supreme Court’s query about the dissolution of local governments in Punjab before the expiry of their term, Punjab AAG Chohan said the matter was already pending with another bench and he requested the two-judge bench to refer the matter to that bench.
When the bench asked the reason about the dissolution of the LG system in Punjab, he said that PTI government wanted to bring the new local government in view of its manifesto.
Upon this, the bench wondered as to how they could dissolve the system before its expiry. Justice Isa asked whether Punjab government would again dissolve the LG system if another party gets a majority in upcoming elections.
The SC adjourned the proceedings until March 1.
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