Wasting Court's Time: SC Throws Out Petition Challenging February 8 General Elections

Court reveals that the petitioner, a court-martialed brigadier, fled the country after filing the petition against elections and instead sought to have it withdrawn when it was fixed for hearing

Wasting Court's Time: SC Throws Out Petition Challenging February 8 General Elections

The Supreme Court on Wednesday threw out a petition challenging the February 8 general elections due to alleged massive rigging. The court also fined the petitioner half a million rupees for wasting the court's time.

This was decided by a three-judge bench headed by Chief Justice Qazi Faez Isa and comprising Justice Musarrat Hilali and Justice Muhammad Ali Mazhar as they heard a petition filed by Brigadier (retired) Ali Khan.

At the last hearing of the case earlier in the week, the top court rejected an application from the petitioner to withdraw their plea and decided to hear the case. It subsequently issued a notice to the petitioner, through the defence ministry and the concerned Station Police Officer (SHO), to appear in person before the court and explain reasons for withdrawing the petition. 

On Wednesday, Additional Attorney General Amir Rehman appeared before the bench. He informed them that the petitioner could not be found. He said they had sent uniformed officers to the petitioner's listed address while notices from the Ministry of Defence were also pasted on his gate. 

Rehman further informed the court that, per government records, the petitioner was a former high-ranking military officer who had been court-martialed in 2012. 

Visibly displeased upon learning this, Chief Justice Isa shared with the court that the petitioner had fled the country. He said that the office of the case fixation branch had received an email from the petitioner on February 19 (when the last hearing was held) that he had left for Bahrain via Doha. CJP Isa said that the petitioner added that he would thus be unable to appear before the court and that he seeks withdrawal of the petition.  

Travel documents supporting his departure from the country were also attached with the email, the chief justice shared. 

It is strange that he filed a petition and moved abroad the next day, remarked the chief justice. 

"He is a strange person. People buy a return ticket because of cheaper rate, but he booked a one-way ticket. It seems that Ali Khan had done a publicity stunt by filing a petition before the Supreme Court," CJP Isa remarked.

He asked if it was a conspiracy that the petitioner had fled the country after moving the apex court. 

During the hearing, the court said the state should ensure that any officer who has been court-martialed does not use their rank.

During Wednesday's hearing, Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) leader Shaukat Basra appeared before the bench even though he had not been issued any notice nor was he listed as a party in the petition. 

The court inquired about Basra's legal position to participate in this case. Basra responded that he was a returned candidate of the PTI and he wanted to make some submissions.

The court, however, did not allow him to make the submissions, explaining that he was neither the petitioner nor his counsel. 

Chief Justice Isa grilled Basra as the latter attempted to issue political statements on the rostrum. 

CJP Isa then raised questions about Basra's conduct and directed him to leave the rostrum. 

When the court hinted at initiating proceedings against Basra, Supreme Court Bar Association of Pakistan (SCBAP) President Shehzad Shaukat stepped forward to rescue him and requested the bench to show restraint. 

The chief justice accepted Shaukat's request but stopped Basra from speaking to the media with regard to the petition. 

The court later dismissed the petition and imposed a fine of Rs600,000 on the former military officer.

The writer is an Islamabad based journalist working with The Friday Times. He tweets @SabihUlHussnain