High Noon for the Pakistan Supreme Court
Markandey Katju 19 Apr 2023

" Nahin kuch subha-o-zunnaar ke phande mein geerai
  Wafadaari mein sheikh-o-barhaman ki aazmaaish hai "
                                                                           Mirza Ghalib

Today, 19th April, will be the High Noon for the the Pakistan Supreme Court, the day when it will be tested for its wafaadaari ( faithfulness ) to the Pakistan Constitution. the day when it will be seen whether it will either enforce the Constitution, or whether it will chicken out, and show it was only paying lip service to it in its earlier verdict that elections to the Punjab Provincial Assembly must be held on 14th May ?
Article 224(2) of Pakistan's Constitution states :

" When the National Assembly or a Provincial Assembly is dissolved, a general election to the Assembly shall be held within a period of ninety days after the dissolution, and the results of the election shall be declared not later than fourteen days after the conclusion of the polls".

The Punjab Provincial Assembly had been dissolved on 18th January 2023, so in view of the clear mandate of Article 224(2) elections to it should have been held by 18th April. The Election Commission of Pakistan fixed elections for 30th April, which itself was a violation of Article 224(2). But thereafter, obviously under some pressure, it further postponed the elections to 8th October. The Supreme Court of Pakistan rightly declared this unconstitutional, and fixed elections for 14th May.

However, the ruling PDM ( Pakistan Democratic Movement ) Government, knowing it will be routed in  the polls ( as all opinion polls indicate ), has said it will not abide by this verdict, and Pakistan's National Assembly ( dominated by the PDM ) has refused to release the funds for holding the elections as directed by the Court.

This being the situation, which is clear contempt of court, the question is what will the Court do next ? Will it show its wafaadaari to the Constitution by sacking the Government for contempt of court ( following the precedent of the dismissal of then PM Yusuf Raza Gilani for contempt of court ), or will it fold its hands and turn a Nelson's eye to this brazen unconstitutional and egregious behaviour of the PDM Government ? 

There is no middle ground. Today is the day of the aazmaaish ( test ) of the Pakistan Supreme Court to know what metal it is made of. Today is its High Noon.

By Justice Markandey Katju, former Judge, Indian Supreme Court
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