ISLAMABAD - The Supreme Court Wednesday dismissed Dr Tahirul Qadri’s petition for reconstitution of Election Commission of Pakistan as he failed to satisfy the court on his intentions behind the move and his right, as a dual national, to file such petition.
In its short order, a three-member bench headed by Chief Justice Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhry maintained that Qadri failed in proving the eligibility of his petition. The court also stated that Tehrik-i-Minhajul Quran chief cannot run for elections.
Upon his failure to establish his case, Qadri flared up and started making uncalled for aspersions against the bench; however, the court showed restraint and decided not to proceed against him under contempt of court laws.
During the proceedings, the chief justice a number of times asked Qadri, who prefers representing himself as a Canadian citizen outside Pakistan, if he being a dual national has locus standi to challenge the constitutional institution. The court asked him to satisfy it about his bona fide intentions and fundamental right to invoke the jurisdiction of the apex court under Article 184(3) for reconstitution of the ECP.
The court asked the TMQ chief as to how his rights had been violated with the current makeup of the commission. The CJ said there are more than 100 political parties in the country and most of them were not part of the current parliament but they had not expressed any reservations on the ECP’s constitution.
Qadri quoted cases of Ardeshir Cowasjee, Al Jihad Trust and PLD 2006, SC 697, Wattan Party. He asked if he, despite his being a dual national, has no right to file this application. “Can’t I get relief under Article 184(3) of the constitution?” “You have filed an application in your personal capacity and not as political party,” the CJ said, adding there are 180 million people living in this country and all have fundamental rights.
The CJ also inquired as to how the TMQ chief suddenly returned from Canada to question the ECP’s organisation, adding that Qadri would have to convince the bench over his sincerity in the matter. The CJ also remarked that Qadri did not identify himself as a Pakistani when abroad. Responding to which, Qadri said he believed that he was being tried for being a dual national and that his loyalty to Pakistan was being questioned. Qadri pleaded that on the third day of the hearing he had not been allowed to read his concise statement. The court asked Dr Qadri to answer the questions he had been asked. “When the judges ask you a question, you are bound to reply,” the CJ told him, adding that this has been the practice since long. Waving a copy of TheNation, he said for last three days media has carried out his trial on the basis of the court questions which he said seem to help that media trial. The CJ said when “you have submitted petition in your personal capacity then such questions would arise and the court has to see your credentials”.
The bench then questioned Attorney General Irfan Qadir regarding the eligibility of Qadri’s petition. The AG advised the bench to focus on the petition instead of Qadri’s character. An argument ensued between the AG and the CJ over whether Qadri’s plea months prior to the upcoming polls could be considered as sincere. The AG argued that Qadri satisfied the requirements in terms of locus standi. He said petitioner’s intentions could not be questioned in the absence of evidence to support the claim of insincerity.
Munir Paracha, counsel for the federation and the Election Commission of Pakistan (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 giving any such statement, the court ordered for the recording of his Lahore rally to be presented to the court. Paracha, however, failed to provide the DVD of the speech. The chief justice said if Qadri uttered those words then it was very serious matter.
Munir Paracha said the notification for the ECP members was issued on 11-6-2011, while appointment of Chief Election Commissioner was notified on 16-7-2012 and in between the ECP held a number of by-elections. He said none of the political parties objected to the composition of the ECP and prayed that discretionary relief to Qadri be dismissed.
Earlier when the bench questioned Qadri’s loyalty under Queen Elizabeth’s oath, Qadri addressed the chief justice saying that if the CJ’s loyalty cannot be termed suspicious for his PCO oath that he took from dictator President General (r) Pervez Musharraf then his oath under Queen Elizabeth cannot be questioned either.
To ridicule the bench, he exhibited a picture showing Chief Justice taking oath from Musharraf. Qadri asked the CJ that when he had taken oath from a dictator and submitted to his LFO (Legal Framework Order) then how he (CJ) could be loyal to democracy. “Is the oath taken from a dictator is better than the one (I took) from Queen Elizabeth?” The chief justice remarked that Qadri should know that Musharraf was the president in 2005 and every chief justice takes oath under the president. Irked by Qadri’s response, the bench warned him that the hearing of his petition will be adjourned indefinitely if he addresses the bench in such a manner.
After a series of dialogues had been exchanged between the bench and Qadri and the chief justice said the cleric had ridiculed the court, adding that the petitioner’s intentions appeared to be malafide. Qadri was then requested to step down from the rostrum. The court later dismissed Qadri’s plea.
The CJ during the hearing told Qadri that in view of his past, he couldn’t enter into parliament due to disqualification under Article 63(1)(c). The court order issued later however said the dual national cleric has the right to vote as a citizen. The bench however showed restraint and decided not to proceed against Dr Qadri under Article 204 of the Constitution read with Section 3 of the Contempt of Court Ordinance 2003, saying such jurisdiction has to be exercised sparingly on case-to-case basis.