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Supreme Court Strikes Back with Vengeance.



Islamabad (Imran Y. CHOUDHRY) :- Former Press Secretary to the President, Former Press Minister to the Embassy of Pakistan to France, Former MD, SRBC Mr. Qamar Bashir analysis :
The Supreme Court dashed the PML(N)’s hopes of fully exonerating Nawaz Sharif’s return and thus satisfied its ego when, right in front of the Supreme Court gate, while addressing thousands of coalition party supporters, the PDM leadership threatened the judges to resign and go home if they dared to rule in favour of the PTI and against the coalition government. Threatened by the government and parliament, as well as hundreds of charged workers, the supreme court was irritated but restrained itself to instructing the attorney general to warn the administration and parliament not to use disrespectful language about the Pakistan Supreme Court. On the other hand, it did not press for the implementation of its ruling, which had called on the government, parliament, and the election commission to convene the Punjab assembly elections within 90 days, which they all brutally ignored.
However, the Supreme Court did not remove its impugned ruling, which sets a precedent for holding elections within 60 days if the assemblies are dissolved within the allowed period, and 90 days if dissolved sooner. This decision will very certainly be invoked if the Election Commission fails to convene an election within 90 days of the dissolution of the assemblies.
Regardless of the recent amendment that has given the election commission the power to decide the timing of the election, it is the considered opinion of the jurist that this implies that the election commission can decide the date of election within 90 days or prior to 90 days but not beyond 90 days. I hope that there will be a lot of litigation about the interpretation of the Election Commission’s powers in determining election dates.
The PML(N) was so enamoured with power and backing from the appropriate quarters that it made the return of Nawaz Sharif a must for holding the next general election. It was also conditional on providing a level playing field, which according to the PML(N) narrative meant equally the balancing panel of justice for the Nawaz family. It meant removal of Imran khan and placing Shahbaz in his place, quashing of all cases against Nawaz Sharif and his family, imprison Imran Khan, as he had done to Nawaz Sharif, his daughter Maryam Nawaz and his brother Shahaz Sharif and majority of the PML(N) leadership, removing PTI from power from Punjab, KP and Kashmir, embroiled Imran Khan into as many cases as possible as he did to her and to her family, Shatter PTI and unnerve Imran Khan. While the PML(N) reached one milestone after another, it also took legal steps to reinstate Nawaz Sharif as Prime Minister for the fourth time, unless he abdicated in favour of his brother or daughter.
With a two-thirds majority in both houses of parliament, the PML(N) was unable to amend Article 188 to grant Nawaz the right to appeal the 10-year prison term imposed by the Accountability Court in Islamabad on July 6, 2018, on charges of corruption related to the purchase of four London flats. In addition, he was fined PKR 1.1 billion (USD 7.8 million). Sharif had already exhausted his right of review appeal, which had previously been dismissed by Pakistan’s Supreme Court on January 14th, 2019 and had reached finality.
Earlier, on July 28, 2017, the Supreme Court of Pakistan disqualified Nawaz Sharif from holding public office for life in a different case. The Court also prevented him from running for office for ten years and ordered that his assets be frozen. The judgement was made in response to a petition brought by the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI), which claimed Sharif had acquired assets outside of his known sources of income. Nawaz Sharif contested the Court’s verdict at the Lahore High Court, but the decision was affirmed. Sharif then petitioned the Supreme Court, which dismissed the suit in July 2018. As a result, this decision is now definitive.
The convictions in both cases have since reached finality under Article 188 of the Constitution, which allows the Supreme Court to review its own decisions, and Article 189, which states that “Any decision of the Supreme Court that decides a legal question or is based on or articulates a legal principle shall be binding on all other courts in Pakistan.” To get around the lack of a two-thirds majority in both chambers of parliament, the PML(N) enacted the Supreme Court Practise and Procedure Act 2023 (SCPPA 2023), which was rubber stamped by the opposition-free Assembly on July 1, 2023. This statute curtailed several of the Chief Justice’s powers while broadening the scope of the Supreme Court’s review jurisdiction by granting the appellant the authority to file an appeal against the Supreme Court’s own decision, but before a different bench than had announced the initial decision.
The Supreme Court, on the other hand, suspended the law even before it became an act, and in the meanwhile began regular hearings and timed the publication of the ultimate ruling with the date of dissolution of the National Assembly and termination of the government to minimise the anticipated reaction and protest.
The government amended Section 232 of the Election Act of 2017 to reduce the maximum period of disqualification from life to five years for any lawmaker who is disqualified by a court or the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP). This was done in order to overturn the supreme court’s earlier decisions of lifelong disqualification from public office and ten-year ban on Nawaz Sharif running for office. The amendment reads, “Notwithstanding anything contained in any other provision of this Act, any other law for the time being in force and any judgement, order or decree of any court, including the Supreme Court and a high court, the disqualification of a person to be elected, chosen or to remain as a member of the Parliament or provincial assembly under paragraph (f) of clause (1) of Article 62 of the Constitution shall be for a period not exceeding five years from the declaring of the disqualification.”
The most significant beneficiaries of this amendment were Nawaz Sharif and Jahangir Tareen, who had exhausted all legal resources to overturn their convictions and had been disqualified for life.
Following the impugned Supreme Court judgement (11th August, 2023), both Nawaz Sharif and Jehangir Tareen seem to be out of the running for any public office in the upcoming general elections. Furthermore, with the absence of the National Assembly and the PML(N) administration, there is no likelihood of the government or parliament interfering with the court’s ruling.
We may also see announcements in the coming days on many other matters pending before the Supreme Court on key national concerns, such as the decision to keep military tribunals, which no longer has the backing of the parliament or the administration.
This decision has completely altered the game. The players, both formal and informal, will now have to reshuffle their power pieces on the political chess board. All political parties’ strategies will be rewritten.
The PML(N) will have to rethink their electoral plan in the absence of their primary power broker, Nawaz Sharif.
PTI will redraw its chess pieces with whatever little power pieces it has, but without its Queen, Mr. Imran Khan, who will be imprisoned in Attack Jail or any other high security jail. Mr. Shah Mehmood Qureshi, who was shockingly freed from jail without making any public statements against the PTI and in support of the army, and who seemed to have struck some type of tacit arrangement, is likely to steer the shattered party according to the script.
PPI will be forced to compete for office without Mr. Tareen, which will sap any drive from him to spend his riches and energy and delegate control to some of his cronies.
The PPP will benefit from the result of this ruling. It has both King Asif Ali Zardari and Queen Bilawal out in the open to plan and run their election campaign without any towering personalities to oppose them.
However, for the smaller parties, this choice may be of little relevance or effect. They will wait for the winner and then conveniently join him to enjoy the power, which is normally more than their representation in parliament.
After Tareen is out of the race, the Establishment, which now has a far larger interest in whichever government comes to power as the main brain and driving force beyond SIFC, will have to carefully choose the successor and will now be thinking about betting on the best horse in the race.

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