'CJP Bandial Under Pressure To Axe PM Shehbaz, But Ensuing Chaos Will Lead To Emergency'

'CJP Bandial Under Pressure To Axe PM Shehbaz, But Ensuing Chaos Will Lead To Emergency'
Pakistan's ongoing constitutional crisis seems to be coming to a head, as analysts now believe that a repeat of June 2012 and July 2017 might be on the cards. Chief Justice of Pakistan (CJP) Umar Ata Bandial will continue adjudicating the issue of Punjab provincial elections, which is the subject of a suo motu case being heard by a controversial bench of the Supreme Court of Pakistan (SC).

Evidently, the Punjab election is proving to be a sticking point on which neither the government, nor the CJP Bandial faction in the judiciary, seems willing to back down.

Even though CJP Umar Ata Bandial was reported to be suffering from a "mild illness", he will resume his duty tomorrow (Thursday April 27) but only to hear the suo motu notice he took over the Punjab elections. This comes in the backdrop of allegations on social media that Seher Bandial, daughter of CJP Bandial, visited former prime minister and PTI chairman Imran Khan's residence at Zaman Park.

In a recent vlog, journalist Ajmal Jami says that there was immense pressure on CJP Bandial to find prime minister Shehbaz Sharif in contempt of court, and then remove him from office in line with the precedent set by the SC in June 2012 with PM Yousaf Raza Gillani of the PPP and July 2017 with PM Nawaz Sharif of the PMLN. However, Jami believes that the CJP has not yet succumbed to the pressure, as he does not want to "send another prime minister home in a case of contempt".

While Jami does not clearly identify who was pressuring the CJP, it is possible that "like-minded judges" who are considered close to CJP Bandial would be among those urging the top judge to take a harder line against the PDM government. A recently leaked audio call would also lead many to believe that the CJP could be facing such 'pressure' from family members who are widely speculated to be PTI supporters.

Jami adds that before the CJP would initiate contempt proceedings against the incumbent premier, he will have to find the chief election commissioner (CEC) and deputy governor of the State Bank of Pakistan guilty of the same, since they submitted the reports to the apex court that the Punjab election is not feasible.

Jami asserts that such judicial activism against the bureaucracy would definitely ruffle their feathers, and some senior mandarins could end up suspended from duty, but verdicts like those from the SC would not dent the PDM government's resolve to delay the elections until October 2023, when they will be due after the current 15th National Assembly's five-year constitutionally mandated tenure expires.

"The bureaucrats will have their hands tied, since they cannot do anything without orders from the government, therefore suspending them or making them appear in court won't be a big deal as far as Punjab elections are concerned," Jami says.

Ajmal Jami also states that the PDM government believes a disqualification by the SC would work in their favour, and that the government as well as premier Shehbaz are ready to be sent packing in such a manner. But Jami believes that the CJP disqualifying PM Shehbaz won't solve the actual issue with the Punjab election, which is not so much the availability of funds, but the deployment of troops for security which the Pakistan Army has declined.

Recently, ISI chief Lt Gen Nadeem Anjum briefed the CJP on why Pakistan's current security situation is not suitable for elections. Journalist Asad Ali Toor has also revealed that Pakistan Army chief Gen Asim Munir met the CJP recently.

Ajmal Jami purports that in the first stage, the SC could move towards suspending the top bureaucrats that the CJP believes are 'hindering' the Punjab election. In the second stage, the apex court could initiate contempt proceedings against the current prime minister.

Jami postulates that another Pakistani chief executive being dismissed by a decree, from a controversial judiciary this time, would create the chaotic conditions necessary for the imposition of an emergency. "If things go in that direction, then elections in October will also become impossible," Jami warns.