Supreme Court seeks reply from ECP on deferring Punjab elections
The Supreme Court on Monday adjourned the hearing of the PTI’s petition against the Election Commission of Pakistan’s order to defer Punjab Assembly elections until October 8.
A five-judge apex court larger bench headed by Chief Justice of Pakistan Umar Ata Bandial and comprising Justice Ijazul Ahsan, Justice Munib Akhtar, Justice Aminuddin Khan and Justice Jamal Khan Mandokhail heard the case.
CJP Bandial while directing for a reply from the ECP remarked that elections are imperative to run our governance system.
Addressing the lawyers from both sides, the CJP sought assurances from both sides that elections would be peaceful.
At the outset of the hearing on Monday, PTI lawyer Barrister Zafar told the court that the apex court, in its March 1 order, had instructed the ECP to decide on a date for elections in Punjab and Khyber Pakhtunkhkwa.
In its March 1 verdict, the Supreme Court had ordered to hold the elections to the Punjab Assembly within 90 days and that the date be announced by the president. It also directed the authorities to provide funds and security personnel to ECP for the elections.
The PTI lawyer said: “On March 8, the ECP issued the schedule for elections in Punjab, whereas the KP governor did not announce a date for the polls.”
He contended that the electoral watchdog had thrice committed violations, explaining that the ECP had rejected the election schedule announced by the president.
Zafar further said that the electoral body has now delayed the elections till October 8, arguing that “it does not have the authority to give a new date for the polls”.
“The election commission has violated the 90-day period [for announcing the date of elections]. As per the Constitution, the ECP does not have the right to change the date [for polls] or extend the 90-day deadline,” he said, stressing that the ECP “overlooked” the court’s orders.
Here, Justice Mandokhail asked: “What do you want from court?”
To this, Barrister Zafar replied that the petitioner wanted the SC to ensure the implementation of the Constitution and its own orders.
“The execution of court orders is the responsibility of the high court,” Justice Mandokhail replied.
Meanwhile, the PTI lawyer said that if the reason for the delay in polls — as given by the ECP — was accepted, then “elections will never take place”. “The matter just does not concern to the court’s orders.
“The matter of elections in two provinces cannot be heard by on high court,” he reasoned, adding that the SC had earlier used its authority on the matter and still had jurisdiction over it.
At that, Justice Akhtar said that the ECP’s decisions has become “an obstruction in the orders of the SC”.
“Only the Supreme Court can decide better whether the orders were violated or not,” the judge observed.
At one point during the hearing, Barrister Zafar asked: “What is the guarantee that the security situation will improve by October?”
Here, CJP Bandial asked if the ECP could set aside the poll date given by the president, noting that there was no past order from the SC regarding the matter.
“We have several examples in our history where the date for elections has been extended,” he pointed out, recalling that elections were also delayed after the death of Benazir Bhutto and the decision was accepted on a national level.