Amid the contemporary political crisis when the Pakistan Democratic Movement (PDM), a coalition of 11 political parties, and the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) are locked horns over elections in Punjab and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa assemblies, which were dissolved by PTI chief and former prime minister Imran Khan after he was ousted through a no-confidence motion on April 10, 2022, unrest is mounting with each passing day as the PTI has finally resorted to politics of agitation and is exerting pressure on the incumbent government to conduct polls as per orders issued by the five-member bench of the Supreme Court of Pakistan, headed by Chief Justice Umar Ata Bandial, in a Suo moto case.
Elections in the Punjab Assembly and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Assembly are scheduled to be held on April 30 and May 28, respectively.
The ruling coalition seems to be fully committed to delaying the elections in both provinces and fully engaged in practicing tactics to cause the delay. One of the examples is the registration of a number of cases against PTI chief Imran Khan and his leadership and the creation of hurdles in his election campaign ahead of the polls.
However, Imran Khan is equally responsible for further deteriorating the situation as he opted to resist his arrest after the issuance of a non-bailable arrest warrant by the Islamabad district and session court in the Toshakhana case, which resulted in a police operation at his Lahore residence, "Zaman Park," that lasted for approximately 25 hours and was then halted by the orders of the Lahore High Court for one day to wait for the judgment of the Islamabad High Court (IHC) as the petition seeking cancellation of Imran Khan’s arrest warrant was filed in the Islamabad High Court (IHC).
During the police operation, the Punjab caretaker government even deployed Rangers to maintain law and order in the provincial capital as clashes between PTI workers and law enforcers continued for more than 25 hours and there was fear of casualties and severe injuries on both sides. Even the Islamabad DIG, who was in Lahore with his team to execute the arrest warrants of Imran Khan, was injured during the attempt to arrest Imran Khan due to harsh resistance by the party workers.
Meanwhile, Imran Khan gave an interview to foreign media while shells of tear gas were placed in front of him in a bid to exert international pressure on the government. And up to some extent, he succeeded in his attempt, as former US envoy to Afghanistan and Pakistan Zalmay Khalilzad came up with a suggestion to avoid a police operation, saying that it would further deepen the crisis in Pakistan.
Among all of these FIRs, warrants, and hate speech dramas, the statement of senior lawyer and Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) leader Senator Aitzaz Ahsan is of utmost importance. He has given a clear message to all stakeholders that elections in Punjab and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa will be held on time as per the verdict of the apex court.
Barrister Aitzaz Ahsan warned against spreading confusion about the judgment of the Supreme Court of Pakistan in a suo motu case regarding the date of elections in two provincial assemblies. He stated that they would not let any conspiracy against the Chief Justice of Pakistan succeed; warning that the top judge of the country "is our red line".
He further said that those who were seeking extensions in the 90-day timeframe for holding the election were actually committing contempt of court, adding that "We will not let anyone commit contempt of court."
He specifically mentioned that if any department caused a delay in elections, it would be considered contempt of the apex court. He further clarified his statement by giving an example in which the department could give the excuse that it could not provide funds for the elections or Rangers for the security, adding that this would not be tolerated by the legal fraternity.
Apparently, the government is not serious about conducting elections on time, and the legal fraternity has openly announced that implementation of the Supreme Court orders would be ensured by them, so it indicates that another lawyers’ movement is on the cards.
Moreover, in recent conducted elections of the Lahore High Court Bar Association (LHCBA), PTI-backed candidates have emerged as the winning candidates, which further supports the impression that the legal fraternity would put its energy and force into fulfilling the demand of the PTI, hold the elections on time, and the country might witness another lawyers’ movement.
Even at the time when the police operation was ongoing at Zaman Park, LHCBA President Ishtiaq A. Khan tried to hand over the surety bond of Imran Khan to the Islamabad DIG, in which the PTI chief contended that he would appear before the Islamabad court on the next hearing scheduled for March 18. But the move failed to yield any positive result. According to the LHCBA president, the Islamabad DIG didn’t meet him deliberately.
Currently, lawyers supporting PTI are in the top slots in the Lahore High Court Bar Association and the Islamabad High Court Bar Association. But above all, it really doesn’t matter whether PTI-backed lawyers are influential in the bar or not. The thing that matters is that the legal fraternity has always taken a stand when they feel the constitution is being violated. This indicates that current political turmoil and deliberate efforts to delay elections could trigger lawyers’ movements in the country.