Following a tense round of heated debate by influential cleric Dr Tahirul Qadri that almost resulted in a contempt of court order on Wednesday, the Supreme Court dismissed his petition seeking reconstitution of the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP).
The Minhajul Quran International chief has failed to prove the eligibility of his petition, a three-judge bench of the top court ruled, adding that Qadri is ineligible to contest elections.
Chief Justice Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhry, who was heading the bench, penned down in the short order that Qadri had failed to make a case for exercising discretionary jurisdiction by the court under Article 184 (3) of the Constitution.
During the hearing, Qadri complained that the court did not allow him to speak on his petition and instead continued to grill him on his dual nationality.
“When you show up with a Canadian passport, then we as judges have the right to question you,” said Justice Chaudhry.
Qadri said he also enjoys rights under Pakistan’s Constitution. “I am also a Pakistani [citizen].”
The bench reminded Qadri of his admission that he travels around the world on his Canadian passport.
The bench, however, observed that like other overseas registered Pakistani voters, Qadri has a constitutional right to cast vote in the elections.
At one point while arguing his case Qadri lost his temper and accused the court of asking “political and unconstitutional questions”.
The bench questioned Qadri’s loyalty under his oath of allegiance to Queen Elizabeth.
To this, the cleric said that if the chief justice’s loyalty cannot be termed suspicious for his PCO oath, then his (Qadri’s) oath under Queen Elizabeth cannot be questioned either.
Justice Chaudhry said Qadri should know that Pervez Musharraf was the president in 2005 and every chief justice takes oath from the president.
Irked by Qadri’s response, the bench warned him that the hearing will be adjourned indefinitely if he continued to address them in such a manner. Qadri was then directed to step down from the rostrum.
Munir Paracha, counsel for the ECP, told the bench that Qadri had called for delaying the elections for two years during his rally in Lahore on December 23.
When Qadri denied making such a statement, the bench ordered for the recording of his Lahore rally to be presented to the court.
The court order also noted that at the time of concluding his arguments Qadri began making “uncalled for aspersions against a member of the bench”, which, they said was tantamount to undermining its authority and thereby called for action against him for contempt of court.
However, the bench decided not to proceed with any action against Qadri, noting that such jurisdiction must be exercised sparingly.
Qadri hits back
Speaking to the media outside the Supreme Court, Qadri complained that the apex court was questioning him about his dual nationality for three days rather than focusing on his petition.
“This is on record. There was no hearing held for the appointment of ECP members. The court should have called the parliamentary committee members and asked for the minutes of their meeting. This would have proved that the formation of the ECP was unconstitutional,” Qadri said.
“With due respect to the judiciary, I want to tell the people the truth. They did not even let me read out a single word from my petition. When I started reading it out yesterday, they did not listen to me and asked me about my dual nationality instead,” he added.
Qadri also said that he became furious when the court attacked all dual nationals. “There are millions of Pakistanis who are loyal to Pakistan and are dual nationals. They add billions of rupees to Pakistan’s economy … their loyalty was questioned.”
Published in The Express Tribune, February 14th, 2013.