LAHORE - Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf leader Yasmin Rashid’s no-confidence in an election tribunal hearing her petition against “29,000 unverified votes” in NA-120, black bucks hunting case and a petition against the recent increase in prices of petroleum products were highlights of the week at the Lahore High Court (LHC) last week.

Chief Justice of Pakistan Mian Saqib Nisar had also been here at the Supreme Court’s Lahore Registry last Monday who took notice of poor conditions at the Pakistan Kidney and Liver Institute. An anti-terrorism court has been taking up the Model Town killings case on a daily basis in compliance with the Supreme Court’s orders. And a new case has come in the limelight at the Lahore High Court about alleged derogatory remarks of a group of parliamentarians of the PML-N in Kasur. Interesting turns came during proceedings of each case.

Taking up a suo motu notice, a three-member bench led by Chief Justice of Pakistan Mian Saqib Nisar showed its disappointment at poor conditions at the Pakistan Kidney and Liver Institute, and asked where the huge amount of Rs20 billion has gone. The top judge expressed concern over non-submission of reports on heavy salaries being paid to doctors at the institute.

The case of Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf leader Dr Yasmin Rashid last week took an important turn as counsel for the petitioner expressed no-confidence in the election tribunal of the Lahore High Court hearing the petition against alleged unverified votes in NA-120 and victory of Kasloom Nawaz in the constituency.

Election Tribunal consisting of Justice Aminuddin Khan of the Lahore High was hearing the petition. Advocate Anees Hasmi, the counsel for Dr Yasmin Rashid, appeared before the tribunal and said that the tribunal was going beyond its jurisdiction. He said the Election Commission of Pakistan and returning officers were made respondents among other respondents in the petition but both respondents were deleted from the petitions.

The counsel said that later the ECP counsel was asked for arguments in the case. He raised the question that how the ECP’s counsel could be asked for assistance when he was made party in the case. The counsel said that the election tribunal had been exercising powers beyond its jurisdiction under the Election Act 2017. On this, the tribunal judge said that ECP’s counsel was asked for assistance of the court.  The petitioner’s counsel said that the tribunal should have asked the advocate general, if needed, for assistance in the case rather than inviting the ECP’s counsel for arguments. He submitted that the ECP was on the list of respondents then how it could be asked for assistance. He refused to plead before the tribunal saying that he would move an application to the chief election commissioner for constitution of a fresh tribunal to decide the matter.

Dr Rashid had claimed that there had been over 29,000 unverified votes in NA-120. She said these votes were cast to support her rival candidate Kalsoom Nawaz, wife of former prime minister Nawaz Sharif, who was declared disqualified by the Supreme Court in Panama Papers case. The petitioner said that unverified votes were not available with the National Database and Registration Authority (Nadra), which she said cast doubt on transparency of the by-election. She prayed to the court to direct the ECP to cancel the unverified votes and also set aside results of the by-poll. Kalsoom Nawaz, the spouse of former premier Nawaz Sharif, stood successful in the NA-120 by-poll after the seat fell vacant after disqualification of her husband and the then head of the PML-N. Now the tribunal will hear the case on May 16.

In the case related to black bucks hunting, Lahore High Court Chief Justice Muhammad Yawar Ali summoned forest, wildlife and fisheries department secretary and a doctor to explain their position. The chief justice also summoned the forest, wildlife department director general along with a report on the steps taken to protect endangered species of black bucks. The chief justice expressed dismay at the government’s failure to perform its statutory obligations.

Renowned Bollywood superstar Salman Khan was sentenced to five years in jail last month after he was found guilty of killing two blackbucks in western state of Rajasthan in 1998. The court also fined him 10,000 rupees for the crime.  However, the convict actor later was released on bail.

“It’s sad that the government has not taken serious steps to protect the endangered species,” the chief justice remarked while hearing petition moved by Advocate Sheraz Zaka.

He also said that it was unfortunate that in Jhang and Bhakkar no economic development had taken place despite the fact that Supreme Court had already issued directions that economic development of those areas should be ensured in exchange of the hunting permission. The counsel asked the court to order the government authorities to ensure protection of rare species. The court adjourned further hearing until May 10.

While hearing the anti-judiciary speeches case, a LHC full bench ordered the Interior Ministry to place names of six accused persons, including an MNA and an MPA of the PML-N, on the Exit Control List (ECL) for taking out a rally against the institution of judiciary and making statements against it in Kasur.

Justice Sayyed Mazahar Ali Akbar Naqvi was heading the bench while Justice Atir Mahmood and Justice Chaudhry Masood Jahangir were the members.  Police produced six accused in the court, including MNA Waseem Akhtar and MPA Naeem Safdar of the ruling PML-N. Kasur DPO Syed Ali Nasir Rizvi also appeared in the court.

The bench asked the prosecution that why the charges against the accused did not include sections related to cyber crime. The court directed the Kasur DPO to look into the cases registered against the suspects and refer them to the Federal Investigation Agency if cyber crime sections were applicable.

Last month, a video went viral on social media showing the accused and others taking out a rally in Kasur and hurling abuses at the judges of the superior judiciary and committing contempt of court.

Kasur police registered a case against over 80 persons out of which six were identified as members of the ruling PML-N. The police booked them under Sections 166, 506, 341, 228 109, 147 and 149 of the PPC. Kasur District Bar Association President Mirza Naseem filed the petition submitting that the protest in Kasur was a planned conspiracy against the institution of judiciary. He alleged that the rally was led by PML-N’s MNA Waseem Sajjad and MPA Safdar Ansari while some local leaders of unions also accompanied them.

The same bench had been hearing petitions against alleged anti-judiciary speeches of ousted prime minister Nawaz Sharif, his daughter Maryam Nawaz and other leaders of the PML-N. The bench was also seized with hearing of petitions against MQM-London chief for his anti-state speeches.

In an identical matter related to the anti-judiciary material on social media, the same full bench issued notices to the Pakistan Telecommunication Authority and Ministry for Information Technology to submit replies at the next hearing.

The other important aspect of the case is that a new application has been filed in these pending petitions in which former president Pervez Musharraf and Tehreek-e-Labbaik Pakistan chief Maulana Khadim Hussain Rizvi have been made respondents. Time will decide fate of these new respondents, however, the full bench will resume its hearing on Monday (today).