ISLAMABAD - The coalition partners – the Pakistan People’s Party, the Pakistan Muslim League (Nawaz), the Jamiat Ulema-e-Islam (Fazl) and others – yesterday announced to boycott the Supreme Court proceedings after the apex court rejected the plea to form a full court bench on petitions related to the recently held Punjab Chief Minister’s re-election including a review of its interpretation of Article 63-A.

Speaking at a joint news conference here with PPP chief Bilawal Bhutto Zardari, PML-N’s former Prime Minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi and others, JUI-F Amir Maulana Fazlur Rehman announced the decision to boycott.

Muttahida Qaumi Movement leader Usma Qadri, Balochistan National Party-Mengal leader Agha Hassan Baloch, Federal Minister Ahsan Iqbal  and Aslam Bhotani were also present at the crucial media interaction – the second in a day.

At the news conference, Maulana Fazlur Rehman – who also heads the Pakistan Democratic Movement – said the full court bench was proposed for the supremacy of justice. “Unfortunately, the judiciary rejected our demand instead of accepting it. If the full court is rejected, we also reject this decision of the judiciary, we will not appear before this bench and we will boycott the case,” he contended.

The cleric said the coalition government wanted to remind that there was a long history in this political system of judicial decisions that had “created instability and destroyed the continuation of government policies and also gave birth to the economic crisis.”

He said the government “wants no institution to interfere in the work that impacts the administrative functioning. Otherwise, we will advise the Prime Minister and the parliament to legislate so that the public’s trust in courts could be restored.

On the occasion, PPP chairman Bilawal Bhutto Zardari, who is incumbent Foreign Minister, said this is a “unanimous decision of our alliance since the court was repeatedly interfering in parliamentary affairs.”

He added: “This case is about the parliament and when you are giving decisions about an institution, we think your entire institution should sit and decide. Had a full court heard us then the entire country would have accepted your decision.”

In his comments, PML-N Vice President Shahid Khaqan Abbasi, a former PM, said it was a “test” for the apex court since it was a requirement of justice that a judge or bench rescue themselves from a case in which fingers were raised on them.

“This is done in every court in the world where there is rule of law and the constitution,” he maintained.

Abbasi said the three judges of the existing bench had the responsibility to decide whether or not the history would accept their conduct.

Earlier in the day, PPP chief Bilawal Bhutto Zardari, PML-N Vice President Maryam Nawaz, JUI-F Amir Maulana Fazlur Rehman and others, had told a news conference that smaller benches of the Supreme Court should not decide crucial cases. The coalition partners had vowed to stand united for democracy and people’s rights.

Fazl says full court bench proposed for supremacy of justice n Bilawal backs announcement as ‘unanimous decision’ n Abbasi calls it ‘test’ for apex court n Maryam Nawaz seeks fair justice approach in dealing cases

They took this stance at a joint press conference here before the start of hearing of Punjab assembly speaker Parvez Elahi’s petition in the Supreme Court against Punjab assembly deputy speaker Dost Muhammad Mazari’s ruling over PML-Q MPAs’ votes for the CM election.

Speaking on the occasion, PPP chief Bilawal Bhutto Zardari, PML-N Vice President Maryam Nawaz, JUI-F Amir Maulana Fazlur Rehman and others – were of the view full court bench should take up this controversial issue.

Bilawal Bhutto, who is also the Foreign Minister, said: “We need a full court hearing in the case of the election of Chief Minister Punjab.”

He said that it was not possible that only three individuals decide whether this country will be run by a “democratic or selected” system.

Bilawal maintained that three individuals cannot change the 1973 Constitution by the stroke of a pen. “The Pakistani people and the PPP struggled for thirty years to restore this Constitution. We want to give our people and the provinces their rights,” he contended.

Bilawal said a campaign was being run for Imran Khan against the economic development and democracy. “This is a conspiracy. We have not let any conspiracy succeed in the past and will not let any conspiracy succeed now. We want for our institutions to remain impartial and operate in a democratic and constitutional manner. We want to save the credibility and respect of the judiciary,” he said.

He underlined that all the parties were demanding for a full court bench to be constituted to hear the Punjab CM case.

In her speech, Maryam Nawaz highlighted the importance of justice dispensation in the society without any discrimination for achieving the required goals of national development and prosperity.

She quoted the famous saying of Winston Churchill, who during the World War-II had said,” “Whether the country’s courts are dispensing justice, if yes, no force of the world can defeat us.”

It was unfortunate, she claimed, that during the last few years, there was a series of “startling decisions given by the judiciary.” There could be a ‘wrong decision’ but there should not be consistency in that regard as the court verdicts left deep impact on the society for decades.

The PML-N vice president said she had been advised by the ‘sympathizers’ not to hold the media talk as it would affect her appeal in the Panama case that was being heard by the Islamabad High Court and was in the “final stages”. However, “I said the people’s representatives have to think beyond themselves and think about the people.”

“I can write an essay praising the judiciary but one wrong decision will dismiss the entire [argument],” she said, adding that on the other hand, a decision based on justice could withstand criticism.

She said Hamza Shehbaz won the slot of Punjab chief minister in the run-off election, but the PTI approached the Lahore Registry of Supreme Court, with its workers jumping the court walls, and that also opened late night despite a holiday. It was ironic that the Registrar waited for filing of the petition that was not even ready by that time, she added. “It never happens in filing of petitions.”

Maryam Nawaz expressed concern over the existing system of petition filing and constitution of court benches.

She recalled that in the Senate chairman’s election as many as six votes were rejected; and subsequently Muhammad Sadiq Sanjrani was elected as the chairman. The court was approached which said that ruling of the presiding officer “cannot be challenged”.

Contrary to that, she said, in the Punjab chief minister’s election, Deputy Speaker Dost Muhammad Mazari rejected 10 votes of the Pakistan Muslim League-Q on the advice of party head Chaudhry Shujaat Hussain, but in that case the PTI was being fully entertained by the court.

The PML-Q president had asked his party’s members of the Punjab Assembly to cast their vote in favour of Hamza Shehbaz, but they defied, so their votes were rejected in line with the law and the Constitution, she added.

She said 25 lawmakers in the Punjab Assembly were de-seated by the court on a petition of the PTI and even their votes were not counted in the chief minister’s election held in April. “Ninety-five per cent independent jurists said that it was tantamount to rewriting the Constitution . . . resultantly 25 PML-N members were given to the PTI. The PML-N votes go in minus and the PTI’s in plus,” she argued.

She viewed that the interpretation and definition of the Constitution should not vary on case to case basis.

Pakistan Democratic Movement (PDM) chief Maulana Fazl-ur-Rehman, while highlighting the current political situation, said, “We want to make the country economically stable. All of us are on one page to set economy on right track and let us do it.”

The coalition government, he said, desired that a full court bench should hear the Punjab chief minister’s election case. The formation of full court bench was demand of the justice and there should be no controversy in its verdict in the larger national interest.

Muttahida Qaumi Movement (MQM) leader Osama Qadri expressed the hope that the Supreme Court would constitute a full bench to hear the Punjab CM’s election matter and respect the wishes of citizens.