The federal and provincial governments are mulling to formally challenge the Supreme Court (SC) judgment of declaring military trials of civilians unconstitutional.

The federal and provincial governments have engaged top lawyers to challenge the verdict, issued by a larger bench of the apex court last month. The lone elected house of the country, Senate, Monday adopted a strongly worded resolution, opposing the court verdict. A five-judge SC bench had unanimously declared the trial of civilians in military courts as null and void in October and ordered that 103 accused in cases relating to the May 9-10, 2023 violence be tried under the ordinary criminal laws.Sources told The News Attorney General for Pakistan Mansoor Usman Awan would represent the federal government, the defence ministry had approached senior lawyer Khawaja Haris, and the interior ministry hired Ahmer Bilal Sufi. The Balochistan and Sindh governments intend to submit pleas against the verdict through Sikandar Bashir Mohmand and Jahanzaib Awan, respectively.Under the law, intra-court appeals have to be filed in 30 days, and the same are to be fixed for hearing in 14 days of application.The SC, through a 4-1 majority, had declared certain clauses of the Army Act as ultra vires the Constitution and of no legal effect. One judge of the bench, reserved his verdict on one para, though siding with the bench on the remaining paras.The bench, led by Justice Ijazul Ahsan and including Justice Munib Akhtar, Justice Yahya Afridi, Justice Mazahir Naqvi, and Justice Ayesha Malik, heard the petitions that had challenged the trial of civilians, allegedly involved in the May-9 violence in the military courts.The petitions, questioning the legitimacy of trying civilians in military courts, were filed by PTI Chairman Imran Khan, retired chief justice of Pakistan Jawwad S Khawaja, Supreme Court Bar Association, Barrister Aitzaz Ahsan, Karamat Ali, Zaman Khan Vardag, Junaid Razzaq, Hafeezullah Niazi, Lt-Col (retd) Inamur-Rahim and Naeemuddin Qureshi.

SC issues notices to AGP, Balochistan AG on census issue

The Supreme Court Monday issued notices to the attorney general for Pakistan (AGP) as well as advocate general Balochistan in a plea filed against census in the province.

A three-member bench of the apex court — headed by Justice Ijazul Ahsen — heard the petition challenging the Balochistan High Court’s verdict on the 2023 Census.

Hassan Kamran filed the appeal under Article 185(3) of the Constitution against the verdict passed by the Balochistan High Court on August 29.

The petitioner had made the Federation of Pakistan through secretary Cabinet Division, Council of Common Interests (CCI), Pakistan Bureau of Statistics, chief secretary Balochistan, National Database & Registration Authority (Nadra) and Suparco through its chairman as respondents.

The petitioner earlier had moved to the Balochistan High Court over gross violation of the fundamental rights of people of Balochistan in the matter of Census of 2023 by a forum having jurisdictional defects and questions and sought protection of his rights along with the public of Balochistan.

The high court, however, dismissed his petition on the grounds that the Supreme Court Bar Association of Pakistan (SCBAP) had challenged the decision of Council of Common Interests (CCI) before the Supreme Court

The petitioner, however, contended in his appeal that the subject matter, grounds and his grievances in his petition were completely different from the SCBAP’s petition before this court.

The petitioner submitted that although the last reported figure of 2023 census by Pakistan Bureau of Statistics was 21.7 million, to his utter shock and the public at large in Balochistan, the final result showed the population of Balochistan as only 14,894,402, i.e. a decrease of almost 7 million, which was about a third of the population, completely wiped out of the official record.

That discarding one third of the population data collected in Census 2023 for Balochistan only raises multiple questions on the transparency of Census Data shared by PBS”, the petitioner had submitted.

He had contended that this overnight shift of data had alarmed the public of Balochistan and deeply hurt the sentiments of the public, as the PBS had made a mockery of the Census 2023 data.

He had stated that it was not just of chance that such data shift had happened and this scenario mimicked dishonesty and blatant discrimination against the people of Balochistan.

On Monday during the course of hearing, Justice Ijazul Ahsen observed that the Balochistan High Court chief minister himself had participated in the Council of Common Interests (CCI) and supported the census adding that nobody opposed the decision of the CCI.

Kamran Murtaza, counsel for the petitioner, however, contended that the Balochistan chief minister was forcibly taken to the CCI meeting adding that before taking him to the meeting, he had opposed it for three hours.

The counsel further submitted that the constitution of CCI was also not complete as well. Justice Ijazul Ahsen asked the counsel for the petitioner about the population of Balochistan as per census of 2017.

The counsel replied that due to poor law and order situation, no census was made in 2017 adding that under the current census, the population of the province was over 10 million.

“According to our estimate, the current population of the province is over two crore, Kamran Murtaza contended. Justice Ijazul Ahsen asked the counsel as to what was the basis of his estimation.

The counsel replied that he was relying on the figures given by the Statistics Department. Justice Jamal Khan Mandokhel observed that only the joint session of the Parliament could examine the decision of Council of Common Interest (CCI).

Justice Ijazul Ahsen observed that the government did not challenge the CCI decision adding that a Pandora’s box will open if the court heard the petitions filed on individual basis.

The CCI is a specific constitutional body wherein matters related to policy level are settled,” Justice Ahsen observed adding that neither the court nor an individual could interfere in policy matters.

Kamran Murtaza, however, contended the CCI meeting was held after it was announced that the assemblies were dissolved.

“As a citizen of the province I have a right to challenge the wrong census,” the counsel submitted adding that 10 seats of Balochistan should be increased in the National Assembly as per its population.

The counsel submitted that being a senator, he had also raised the issue of census on the floor of Upper House of the Parliament (Senate).

Justice Ijazul Ahsen observed that there might be any law on the basis of which the federal government announced the notification of census.

Kamran Murtaza, however, replied that there was no law or any provision of the constitution stating that the CCI was competent to give final approval of the census.

Meanwhile, the court observed that there were some legal questions and asked the counsel for the petitioner to make preparations and also issued notices to the attorney general as well as advocate general Balochistan for assistance and adjourned the hearing for a week.

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