The recent setbacks faced by the ruling PTI and the apparent relief received by the PML-N through recent court decisions has kicked off a debate as to whether a wind of change has started to blow through the judiciary. Last two weeks, the PTI faced two major setbacks on legal fronts.
Firstly, the apex court restored the local governments (LGs) in Punjab, which were dissolved by the PTI led Punjab government in May 2019. In view of the SC order, more than 55,000 LG representatives have been restored in Punjab. Interestingly, 80% of them belong to the PML-N.
A three-judge bench, presided over by Chief Justice of Pakistan Gulzar Ahmed and comprising Justice Ijazul Ahsan and Justice Sayyed Mazahar Ali Akbar, on March 25 passed a short order regarding restoration of the LGs in Punjab on a petition filed by the LG representatives two years back.
According to sources, the PTI is upset over the SC decision. After the court unveiled its order, the ruling party held a high level meeting in which it was decided that the Punjab government will challenge the order next week by filing a review petition.
A senior official in Punjab contended that previous LGs could not be restored as the Punjab Local Government Act, 2019 – which is still intact – does not provide for district councils.
Last week, the SC left the ruling party shell-shocked as it rejected a PTI candidate’s petition against the Election Commission of Pakistan’s (ECP) decision to hold reelection at NA-75 constituency of Daska.
A three-judge bench, led by Justice Umar Ata Bandial and comprising Justice Sajjad Ali Shah and Justice Munib Akhtar, had heard the case. When the bench was hearing the matter, many lawyers were predicting that the SC will set aside the ECP decision to hold re-election in the entire constituency.
PTI lawyers were very hopeful that at the most the SC would order re-election at 20 polling stations.
The PML-N’s social media activists had even started a campaign against Justice Bandial. However, unlike their expectations, the bench upheld the ECP decision for a re-poll.
Recently, the Lahore High Court (LHC) also granted relief to Sharif family, when it granted post arrest bail to Hamza Shehbaz, the leader of opposition in the Punjab Assembly
When the National Accountability Bureau (NAB) summoned PML-N Vice President Maryam Nawaz in Chaudhry Sugar Mills case, the LHC also granted her pre-arrest bail.
The PML-N is getting relief at a time when it is alleging that state institutions are backing the PTI government on every issue.
However, the PTI is not only facing setbacks in courts but the ECP also did not comply with its wishes when it recently opposed the federal government’s presidential reference seeking the SC’s opinion with regard to holding Senate elections through open ballot without a constitution amendment.
The ECP later also refused to take steps for introducing traceable ballots in last month’s Senate elections in view of the SC’s opinion in the presidential reference case.
Senior lawyers believe that the SC’s opinion on the presidential reference was not clear and therefore the ECP did the right thing by not taking steps for introducing identifiable ballots in Senate elections.
They said if the SC wanted use of traceable ballots in the recent Senate elections then it would have given clear observations in this regard.
Interestingly, the judges who heard the presidential reference, ordered restoration of the LG system in Punjab and rejected the PTI petition against re-election at NA-75 constituency are those who had earlier been giving a tough time to the PML-N.
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