SC issues notices to respondents over delay in Punjab elections

SC issues notices to respondents over delay in Punjab elections

Islamabad (Web Desk): The Supreme Court (SC) on Monday issued notices to the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) over delay in elections in Punjab and Khyber-Pakhtunkhawa (KP).

A five-member larger bench headed by Chief Justice of Pakistan (CJP) Umar Ata Bandial and comprising Justice Ijazul Ahsan, Justice Munib Akhtar, Justice Aminuddin Khan and Justice Jamal Khan Mandokhail is hearing the petition.

During the hearing, the CJP asked all political parties to give assurance to holding free and fair elections, adding that "political parties should restore calm and peace".

The court “needs assurance that elections would be held in a transparent manner,” he added.

CJP Bandial said that the electoral watchdog “is just institution”, adding that “it may have gone a little off track, but it can be brought back”.

"Elections are important for democracy but can only be held in a conducive environment," the CJP said.

He also questioned whether the ECP can annul the date of elections given by the president.

“Instead of amending the schedule, can it wipe out the schedule?” the CJP asked.

He also said that “Article 254 of the Constitution could not condone the wrongdoing which is referred by ECP”.

"There is a viewpoint that elections should be held in the country only when there is peace and order, elections should be free, transparent and fearless," the CJP said.
“What are our politicians doing for stability in the country? This is a very disturbing situation”, remarked Justice Bandial.

During his remarks, Justice Jamal Khan Mandokhail also raised questions on the maintainability of the petition.

“Why the petitioner did not approach the high court for the implementation of the order,”he said.

He also asked, “where is the order of the court in suo motu case regarding the announcement of the date to hold elections”. However, Justice Munib Akhtar said that “all five judges had signed the short order”.

The CJP said the present political situation in the country was “very alarming” and noted that elections could only be held once the situation improved.

The election commission is just an institution and its needs facilitation and support for elections, the apex judge added.

Subsequently, the hearing was adjourned till Tuesday, 11:30am.

On March 23, the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) announced the postponement of the upcoming elections in Punjab, which were scheduled for April 30, due to 'security concerns'.

The ECP has issued a notification explaining the reasons for the postponement and has set a new date of October 8 for the general elections.

On Saturday, Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) moved the SC against the decision of the ECP with a request to order the electoral body to hold the elections as per the date fixed earlier — April 30.

Barrister Syed Ali Zafar moved a petition on behalf of PTI Secretary General Asad Umar, former Punjab Assembly speaker Mohammad Sibtain Khan, former Khy­ber Pakhtunkhwa Assembly Speaker Mushtaq Ahmad Ghani and former lawmakers of Punjab Abdul Rehman and Mian Mahmoodur Rashid.

The petitioners maintained the stance that the ECP’s decision was violation of the Constitution and tantamount to amending and subverting it.

It sought directions for the federal government to ensure law and order, provisions of funds and security personnel as per the ECP’s need to hold the elections.

In the petition, the PTI  also requested the court to direct the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KP) governor to announce the date for elections to the provincial assembly.

On March 24, KP Governor Ghulam Ali also proposed October 8 as the date for holding elections in the province. Earlier, had announced May 28 as the date for the polls.