Lahore - The last week started with Lahore High Court’s dismissal of Punjab government’s appeal against the court orders to make the inquiry report on Model Town killings public.

The week ended with an all-party conference, leaving a message for all non-political forces that democracy is the only solution to all problems facing the country today.

The court decision has come at a moment when major opposition parties are getting united on the point that there is a need for early elections. This demand perhaps is the reason, which compelled the country’s chief executive on Saturday to give a statement that the government will complete its term.

Lawyers have strong concerns about Nawaz Sharif’s alleged anti-judiciary campaign, but they don’t want the system packed in any case. LHCBA’s all-party conference is proof of this and leaders from all major political parties participated in it. They unanimously said that they can’t afford to derail the system. The gathering also reflected the mind of the lawyers that they will support democracy at every cost.

The conference agreed that political forces will not side by non-political forces in any circumstances; rather they will become an iron wall against attempts and conspiracies to derail democracy. However, the conference condemned anti-judiciary campaign of political parties, including the ruling PML-N. The bar resolved that future of democracy is under threat in the prevalent political situation and all political parties have decided not to support any undemocratic step in the country. It is the sole prerogative of the parliament to rule the country, however, at the same time the political parties should learn a lesson from their mistakes and restore people’s confidence in the political system and politicians, the declaration added.

The house also demanded formation of an independent election commission, provision of fundamental rights to citizens and provision of speedy justice to the victim families of the Model Town incident. Earlier, Federal Minister for Railways Saad Rafique said democratic process should go on despite all differences. He said his political party made mistakes but PML-N also laid sacrifices to strengthen democracy. He pointed out that political differences were the jewel of democracy but they should not be stretched to the extent to derail democracy.

Vice Chairman of Pakistan Tehreek Insaf (PTI) Shah Mahmood Qureshi said free and fair elections were the basic requirement for democracy to flourish in the country, adding the goal could not be achieved without setting up an independent election commission.

It is the constitutional right of every citizen to protest for his rights but at the same time the protesters should remain peaceful and abstain from destroying people’s properties. Awami Muslim League chief Sheikh Rashid said it is important for democracy to stay alive in Pakistan. He said that rulers had taken loans worth billions of rupees. He pointed out shortage of energy on the occasion and said, “We get electricity in winter and gas in summer.” “Investors are stealing electricity worth Rs200 billion from the country,” he said.

Rashid said people joined parties for their vested interests, as people who were with Zulfikar Ali Bhutto later joined General Pervez Musharraf’s government and they are now with the ruling party.  Two groups of lawyers scuffled when Rashid started his address. Earlier, lawyers quarrelled over seats on the stage; however, the organising committee members told them they need to remain seated on their assigned seats. They had a heated argument and then LHCBA President Chaudhary Zulfiqar Ali intervened and resolved the matter. Rashid requested the lawyers not to fight. He said, “Lawyers should not fight like politicians.” He said that lawyers' fight would become highlight of the conference.

PPP’s Sardar Latif Khan Khosa, Pakistan Awami Tehreek’s Khurram Nawaz Gandapur, PML-Q’s Mian Munir and leaders of many other political parties addressed the conference and supported democracy in the country.

Pak Sarzameen Party head Mustafa Kamal said the present democratic system was not proving fruitful for common people, as their social and economic conditions are deteriorating. The political parties grab the power but they do not use it for the welfare of people.

However, on the other side, last week’s judgement of the Lahore High Court that Model Town inquiry report be made public warmed the political arena. Major political parties are joining the Pakistan Awami Tehreek, the victim of Model Town incident, one by one and supporting its campaign against the ruling party. The LHC dismissed the Punjab government’s appeal against the decision of a single bench regarding publication of the Model Town inquiry report, with directions to furnish it to the victim families and publish it within 30 days. But another judgement by the Supreme Court about Orange Line Metro Train Project is a great relief for the ruling party, as its main leadership has been in hot waters after the SC judgement in Panama Papers case.

Among other cases last week, the decision about composition of the Pakistan Medical and Dental Council and its 2016 regulations for admission to medial colleges was an important one. The LHC struck down the PMDC.

A division bench headed by Justice Ayesha A Malik and Justice Jawad Hassan heard the appeals moved by students and private colleges challenging formation of the PMDC, its regulations and the Central Induction Policy 2016.

The bench set aside Sections 9 (c), 7, 8 and 11 of the impugned regulations, holding that PMDC was working under an amended ordinance of 2015 that had lapsed. As a result, the bench said, regulations made by the council also became ineffective. The bench restored 2013 regulations, enabling the private medical colleges to conduct admissions independently, with directives to the federal government to hold fresh elections of the PMDC within three months. However, the court allowed the present council to carry out day-to-day affairs until lawful composition of a new council.  Also, the court directed the Council of Common Interests (CCI) to review the admissions policy. The CCI could not approve previous regulations made by the PMDC.

Advocate Ijaz Awan, Ahsan Bhoon and Abid Saqi argued on behalf of the appellants, while Advocate Noshab A Khan represented the Pakistan Medical and Dental Council. The appellants’ counsel argued that the regulations made by the PMDC were illegal because the amended ordinance of 2015 had lapsed in April last year by dint of Article 89 of the Constitution. The counsel contended that last year’s regulations had no backing of any law and had been contrary to the Constitution as well as PMDC Ordinance, 1962.

They questioned implementation of 2016 regulations, saying that these rules had retrospective effect instead of prospective from academic sessions of 2010-21.

The petitioners’ counsels had argued that executive actions could not have retrospective effects, taking away vested rights of individuals/citizens as the law is quite clear on the point. They said the amended regulations about eligibility for SAT-II students caused mental agony and deprived many aspiring candidates.

The counsel prayed to the court to set aside the 2016 PMDC regulations for being unlawful and unconstitutional and direct the respondents to protect future and vested fundamental rights of the petitioners as well as students seeking admission to MBBS. They prayed to the court to set aside the decision passed by a single bench that dismissed their writ petitions.

In another case about details of expenses being incurred on the heavy security provided to Sharif family members, the LHC issued notice to the Punjab government. The lawyer pleaded that the Punjab government was wasting millions of rupees of taxpayers on heavy security being provided to former prime minister Nawaz Sharif, his daughter Maryam Nawaz and MNA Hamza Shahbaz. He argued that he approached the authority concerned to seek details of security and money being spent on it but he had not been provided the required information. He pointed out that under Article 19-A of the Constitution, every citizen has the right to access information but his constitutional right had been violated and denied. After hearing preliminary arguments, the court issued notice to the Punjab government and sought reply.

 

FIDA HUSSNAIN