Court says it cannot order premier’s trial under Articles 62, 63 of Constitution with a Parliament in place, says NA speaker, ECP should take up matter
The Supreme Court dismissed all the three petitions seeking disqualification of Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif for allegedly lying on the floor of the National Assembly (NA) regarding the role of army in talks with the protesting parties Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) and Pakistan Awami Tehreek (PAT).
The seven-judge bench headed by Chief Justice of Pakistan (CJP) Nasirul Mulk and comprising Justice Jawad S Khawaja, Justice Anwar Zaheer Jamali, Justice Saqib Nisar, Justice Asif Saeed Khosa, Justice Sarmad Jalal Osmany, Justice Mushir Alam heard three identical pleas filed by PTI leader Ishaq Khakwani, Pakistan Muslim League-Quaid (PML-Q) Chairman Chaudhry Shujaat Hussain and Insaf Lawyers Forum President Gohar Nawaz Sindhu.
The petitioners claimed that PM Sharif had asked Army Chief General Raheel Sharif to act as a “mediator” between the government and protesting PTI and PAT, and serve as a “guarantor” to any agreement with the parties.
Sharif had told the parliament that it was PAT Chairman Dr Tahirul Qadri and PTI Chairman Imran Khan who had requested a meeting with General Sharif in order to broker a settlement with the government over the political crisis, adding that he (PM) gave permission to the general to engage the two leaders and play the role of a mediator.
However, Khan and Qadri had categorically rejected the premier’s statement that they had invoked the army’s help and had slammed the premier for “lying to the nation”.
The military had later issued a short statement saying that it was playing the role of “facilitator” in the ongoing political crisis at the behest of the government.
During the hearing, counsel for Shujaat and Khakwani, Irfan Qadir contended that the PM’s statement in the Parliament had been denied by the COAS.
The premier’s speech in Parliament was also read out in the court.
The bench observed that the premier had not made a direct reference to the army and had only endorsed the opinion of Interior Minister Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan.
The bench noted that Inter Services Public Relations (ISPR) Director General Major Asim Bajwa had not explicitly mentioned the premier’s name in his tweet and had referred to the government asking the army to play a “facilitative role” for resolution of the political crisis in the country.
The bench said “government” could suggest any member of the federal cabinet.
The court asked Attorney General Salman Butt whether the ISPR DG had held a press conference later where he had mentioned the premier’s name. Butt said that the matter had only been confined to Twitter.
The court said it could not order the Sharif’s trial under Articles 62 and 63 of the Constitution as there was a Parliament in place, adding that it could only do so if elections were in process.
In the existing situation, it said, the matter had to be forwarded to NA Speaker Ayaz Sadiq and then to the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP), adding that the court was not the right body to be approached on this.
The bench was not satisfied with the petitioners’ claims that the PM had lied in the National Assembly and said that the petitioners could not seek the premier’s disqualification as the matter did not concern them.