Pak’s top spy chiefs brief Supreme Court judges on security issues

Islamabad: The heads of the Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) and the Military Intelligence (MI) met Chief Justice Umar Ata Bandial and two other top judges for more than three hours and briefed them on the security issues facing Pakistan, amidst a tussle between the government and the apex court over holding snap elections in the politically crucial Punjab province.

The meeting between the spy chiefs of Pakistan and the top judges took place on Monday in the chamber of Chief Justice Bandial, the Express Tribune newspaper reported on Tuesday.

The two top spymasters ISI chief Lt Gen Nadeem Anjum and MI Chief Major General Wajid Aziz briefed Chief Justice Bandial on the security issues confronting the country, it said.

A three-judge bench — led by the chief justice and comprising Justice Munib Akhtar and Justice Ijazul Ahsan — on April 4 declared as “unconstitutional” the Election Commission of Pakistan’s (ECP) decision to postpone the election for the Punjab Assembly and ordered it to hold polls in the province on May 14.

On March 22, the ECP delayed the provincial assembly election in the province by more than five months, citing a deteriorating security situation in the cash-starved country.

The same bench on April 14 ordered the State Bank of Pakistan to release Rs 21 billion to the ECP for holding elections in Punjab and Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa province and send an “appropriate communication” to this effect to the finance ministry by April 17.

At an earlier hearing, Defence Secretary, Former Lt Gen Hamood Uz Zaman, requested the bench to get an in-camera briefing on security issues. But the bench had asked him to first submit a classified report.

“It seems that these officials directly shared with the judges the reasons why the Army troops could not be made available for security duty on May 14,” a lawyer told the paper.

April 17 was the last date to inform the ECP about a security plan as per the direction of the apex court.

It is not clear whether the Supreme Court expressed satisfaction with the briefing. However, the briefing will have far-reaching implications if the judges get convinced that the security situation in the country does not allow the deployment of troops to ensure security during the poll in Punjab.

Holding provincial elections has taken centre stage in Pakistani politics as former Prime Minister Imran Khan has been pushing for snap elections in Punjab and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa provinces.

PTI Chairman Khan has been demanding early national elections since his ouster in April last year after he lost a confidence vote in Parliament.

The current term of the National Assembly will complete its five-year term in August this year. According to the Constitution, elections shall be held within 90 days after the dissolution of the lower house. This means that the election must be held by mid-October. The last general election was held in July 2018.

The PTI dissolved the Punjab and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa assemblies on January 14 and 18, respectively, in a bid to force the ruling coalition to hold early general elections.

Meanwhile, Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif convened a meeting of his coalition partners on Tuesday to discuss the current political situation to take his allies into confidence about the cases in the Supreme Court about polls and the powers of the chief justice.