The Supreme Court on Friday announced it will take up petitions on two important pending issues—timely elections and military trials of civilians involved in May 9 riots—on Oct. 23 (Monday).
A day earlier, Chief Justice of Pakistan (CJP) Qazi Faez Isa had indicating during unrelated proceedings that the apex court was taking up “important” issues “soon” and would have little time for other pending matters. According to the cause list, the petitions seeking elections within 90 days of the dissolution of an assembly would be heard by a three-member bench led by the CJP and comprising Justices Athar Minullah and Aminuddin Khan.
They have been filed by the Supreme Court Bar Association, the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI), the Jamaat-e-Islami, and others, with the former ruling party welcoming the fixing of the case. “The Supreme Court has given a very detailed interpretation of the constitutional requirement of elections in 90 days on the request of former speaker Punjab assembly in its decision of April 4, 2023,” it said, hoping the present petitions would be resolved swiftly so the country could proceed to polls.
Last month, the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) announced it would schedule general elections in the last week of January but stopped short of issuing any specific date. The proposed schedule adds roughly two months to the 90-day deadline, which was set to expire in mid-November after the National Assembly was dissolved on Aug. 9. The former government and the ECP have both defended the delay, maintaining that after the publication of census results, the electoral body was bound to conduct fresh delimitation before proceeding to polls.
Also on Friday, the apex court notified the resumption of hearings into several petitions challenging the trials of civilians in military courts. Led by Justice Ijazul Ahsan, the bench hearing the case comprises Justices Munib Akhtar, Yahya Afridi, Mazahar Ali Akbar Naqvi and Ayesha Malik.
After the May 9 riots, the National Assembly had passed a resolution demanding the rioters be tried under the Army Act, with the Army subsequently disclosing that military proceedings had been initiated against “102 miscreants.” In response, several petitioners had demanded that no civilians be tried in military courts.
After several proceedings into the case by a six-judge bench, including then-CJP Umar Ata Bandial, the case had been adjourned indefinitely, leaving the fate of the civilians facing military trials in limbo.