ISLAMABAD -  The Supreme Court Tuesday refused to issue an order to stop former premier Nawaz Sharif from working as PML-N chief until the petitions challenging Election Act, 2017, were decided.

A three-member bench headed by Chief Justice Mian Saqib Nisar resumed hearing in identical petitions against the Election Act that enabled Sharif to become the party head.

The top court made it clear to the PML-N leaders who were present during the hearing that the court was showing restraint to their speeches, which should not be considered its weakness.

Farogh Naseem, representing Awami Muslim League chief Sheikh Rasheed, told the bench that he had sought suspension of the specific provision of the Election Act, 2017, which had enabled the former premier to become the PML-N head. The counsel contended he was not seeking annulment of the whole act, but argued a disqualified person could not become the head of a political party.

The chief justice questioned whether the court could suspend a law passed by the parliament. The top judge further questioned how the court could stop Sharif from acting as the head of a political party because the Election Act was still a valid law.

PML-N leaders, including Raja Zafarul Haq, Khawaja Saad Rafiq, Tariq Fazal Chaudhry, Pervaiz Rashid and others were present during the hearing. At the outset, Raja Zafarul Haq requested the court to grant two weeks for preparation of the case. The chief justice said: “We will give you 10 days.” However, addressing Rafique, the chief justice said: “You make speeches outside courts where we cannot reply.” The chief justice asked him they would give him the opportunity to speak and would reply. Rafique said he could not speak here. The chief justice said everyone could talk in the court, but within the limits of the constitution and law. The chief justice remarked, “Don’t reopen past incidents as our children would have to get justice from the courts”.

The chief justice also noted former information minister Pervaiz Rashid also speaks, but in a very polite manner. “We are showing restraint which should not be considered as our weakness,” the chief justice said, adding the court could be requested, but couldn’t be pressurised.

The chief justice said: “Raja Zafrul Haq is a great parliamentarian as he knows how judges respect parliamentarians, so they should also respect us.”

Chief Justice Saqib Nisar vowed to maintain the dignity of the country’s highest court. He said, “We will determine its constitutional jurisdiction and nobody can pressurise it”. Zulfiqar Ahmed Bhutta pleaded the court should decide the case at the earliest as the United Nations observers’ team would arrive in Pakistan next week. The chief justice told him not to discuss irrelevant matters in the court and said next time the learned petitioner would not be heard as number 1.

 Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf chief Imran Khan, Sheikh Rasheed, Pakistan People’s Party Secretary General Syed Nayyar Hussain Bukhari, MNA Jamshed Dasti, Zulfiqar Ahmed Bhutta and Pakistan Justice Party have challenged the Election Act, 2017, adopted by the parliament last month, enabling a disqualified person to head a political party. The hearing was adjourned until February 6.