On Wednesday, Pakistan’s Supreme Court postponed the by-election in the constituency where PML-N leader Nawaz Sharif would have run, before the controversial Lahore High Court ruling on Monday, [see previous post]. Following Monday’s development, supporters of Nawaz’s party reacted with outrage, and PML-N lawmakers staged a walkout from the National Assembly on Tuesday. According to The News, the party’s parliamentary leader Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan asked the government to clarify its position as to who was making the policies of the government, adding, “What was going on eight years back same is happening again as check post has been established all around the constitution avenue to protect the PCO judges of the Supreme Court.” Khan reportedly alleged the federal government was protecting the PCO judges [for more background on the PCO judges versus those fired by Musharraf, read this post] and asked the PPP to clarify its position on the issue.
Following these developments, PM Yousaf Raza Gilani announced that the government would challenge the court decision to bar Nawaz and requested that the Supreme Court would postpone the by-elections in the NA-123 constituency until the final verdict from the appeal was decided. A separate report from The News noted that Gilani made the statement “in a bid to cool down the charged sentiments of the PML-N…” However, Dawn, in its coverage, reported the announcement seemed to fall short of the PML-N demands of the PPP, and noted the ruling party could have taken a more “clear stand on the legitimacy” of these PCO judges. However, noted the Daily Times, Gilani “denied allegations leveled by angry PML-N workers that the PPP-led government was protecting the PCO judges.” BBC News quoted deputy Attorney General Raja Abdur Rehman, who said, “Our plea is that under… the Pakistani constitution, election disputes should be heard by election tribunal and not the high court. High courts have no jurisdiction to hear such cases.”
According to the AFP, although the Pakistani Supreme Court told Nawaz Sharif today to appear for the next hearing on June 30, “his lawyer said he would not come because he does not recognize judges appointed by President Pervez Musharraf under emergency rule last November.” The lawyer, Akram Sheikh, told reporters, “The courts are bound to give relief and dispense justice, no matter if someone is able to appear before it or not.”
According to the BBC, “Correspondents say the Lahore court’s decision has exacerbated tensions between the PML-N and the main party in the governing coalition, the Pakistan People’s Party (PPP).” Although the government’s appeal was obviously meant to appease the PML-N, the increasing tensions between these two parties further shows how polarized the judiciary issue has become. Although the restoration of the judges is by no means a simplistic topic, its black-and-white depiction by many of the parties involved is problematic for the acceptance of any proposed solution. [Image from Reuters]