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For The People, By The People

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For The People, By The People
political and economic crisis

For The People, By The People

CJP Umar Ata Bandial says solution to all the issues in the country is only possible through people’s decision

Islamabad: Keeping in view the country’s current political and economic crisis, the apex court has said that the people’s decision is the only solution to all the issues.

The Supreme Court went on to add that since legislation taking place is becoming controversial because the parliament has been systematically kept incomplete.

Chief Justice of Pakistan (CJP) Umar Ata Bandial, while hearing PTI Chairman Imran Khan’s plea challenging amendments in NAB ordinance, remarked that the only solution to all the issues in the country is only possible through the people’s decision.

The apex court’s three-member bench comprising CJP Bandial, Justice Syed Mansoor Ali Shah and Justice Ijazul Ahsan was hearing chairman PTI’s plea, which claimed the new NAB laws are a “violation of fundamental rights”.

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The apex court reminded that in the speaker ruling case the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) claimed that they would be ready to conduct elections in November 2022 and now it’s February.

“Eight months have passed since the incumbent government came to power, the solution to all issues afflicting the country is only possible through the people’s decision.”

The Chief Justice remarked that the current parliament has been systematically kept incomplete and as a result the legislation taking place in the current parliament is also becoming controversial.

Government’s lawyer Makhdoom Ali Khan argued that Chairman PTI doesn’t have the right to file the petition. “The court should remain cautious about Article 184(3) of the Constitution as authority of this article exists in public matters,” he contended.

To this CJP Bandial remarked that the realities of the present case are different. The chief of the country’s biggest political party has challenged the NAB amendments. “The petitioner Imran Khan is no ordinary citizen. Even after leaving the government, he has enjoyed enormous public support,” he said.

The government’s lawyer said that the court has to determine what is the standard of cases regarding fundamental rights. “Can anyone challenge legislation based on assumptions?”

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To this, the CJP remarked that Imran was not an ordinary man but the chief of a huge political party of the country and was a former prime minister. “His party decided to resign from the parliament due to political conflicts,” he added.

Justice Bandial remarked that the Chief Election Commissioner Sikandar Sultan Raja had assured him in November last year that the electoral body was “ready to hold elections any time”. Now, it is February 2023, the parliament’s period is till August. If this party could not raise an objection in the parliament on such a controversial amendment, then it is their privilege that they challenge it in the court.”

Justice Bandial said the judiciary was cautious in reviewing legislation which is why it did not take suo motu notice but the current hearing was being held at a party chief’s petition.

Justice Shah asked a person who is in the minority and his rights are being affected, where else will he go other than the court? “Whatever is necessary, let the people decide upon it.”

Justice Bandial further remarked that the political vacuum is difficult for the people. “When there is a political crisis, the judiciary has to intervene. The people want a government free of corruption.”

At one point during the hearing, the federal government’s lawyer said when Imran left the government, the amendments were already under a standing committee and he had only challenged the NAB amendments after losing the government.

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Justice Shah recalled that Imran and his party had abstained from voting on the NAB ordinance and asked if those who refused to vote had the right to approach the court.

“Can a National Assembly member leave the Parliament empty? Is bringing matters pertaining to the Parliament to court not weakening the legislature?”

He observed that Imran’s resignation had not been accepted which meant that he was still a member of the NA.

Justice Bandial added that the court would seek a response from Imran on the matter. “Should we not hear the petitioner’s argument only on the basis that his conduct was incorrect?

He remarked that every leader takes recourse from the Constitution to justify his actions and boycotting Parliament was PTI’s political strategy. “It is not necessary that every political strategy has a legal justification.”

Justice Ahsan asked how many people voted in favour of the NAB amendments during the joint sitting of the Parliament.

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In his response, senior lawyer Khan told the court that 166 members had attended the session.

Justice Ahsan remarked that in a joint sitting, the number of parliamentarians should be 446. This means that fewer than half of the members voted for the amendment. The court would only examine fundamental rights and points of crossing constitutional limits.

The court question of Imran Khan’s conduct would have come into question if he was personally benefiting from the NAB amendments. Apparently, the petitioner does not seem to have any personal interest attached to the ordinance, the judge maintained.

Makhdoom argued that amendments were not necessarily challenged for personal interests. The petitioner can also gain political advantage from challenging the NAB amendments.

He said Imran Khan deliberately decided to leave Parliament empty.

At that, CJP Bandial said that maybe Imran knew he would not be successful in Parliament and this is why he came to court. Along with being a politician, Imran Khan is also a resident of this country.

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Justice Shah remarked that if the court declared the NAB law null and void today, “anyone will challenge laws in the SC tomorrow.

Later the apex court adjourned the hearing till Feb 14.

NAB law amendment

The NAB (Second Amendment) Bill 2021 states that NAB’s deputy chairman, to be appointed by the federal government, would become the acting chairman of the bureau following the completion of the tenure of the chairman.

The bill has also reduced the four-year term of the NAB chairman and the bureau’s prosecutor general to three years. After approval of the law, NAB will not be able to act on federal, provincial or local tax matters. Moreover, the regulatory bodies functioning in the country have also been placed out of NAB’s domain.

It says that all pending inquiries, investigations, trials or proceedings under this ordinance, relating to persons or transactions, shall stand transferred to the concerned authorities, departments and courts under the respective laws.

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It has also set a three-year term for the judges of the accountability courts. It will also make it binding upon the courts to decide a case within one year. Under the proposed law, it has been made binding upon NAB to ensure the availability of evidence against an accused prior to his or her arrest.

According to one of the key amendments, the act “shall be deemed to have taken effect on and from the commencement of the National Accountability Ordinance 1999”.

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