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ISLAMABAD: The poll body on Thursday “reprimanded” the central ruling party Pakistan Muslim League Nawaz (PML-N) for its lingering failure in holding intra-party elections but gave it two more months to hold these polls — latest by March 14.

In the hearing of the PML-N intra-party polls case, Chief Election Commissioner Sikandar Sultan Raja questioned why Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif and Minister for Planning Ahsan Iqbal were occupying party positions in their respective capacities as president and secretary general when they were too busy to look after the party affairs.

He headed the five-member bench that heard the case— comprising Nisar Ahmed Durrani, Shah Mohammad Jatoi, Babar Hassan Bharwana, and former Justice Ikramullah Khan.

Raja made these remarks after the defence lawyer informed the bench that the PML-N could not hold the intra-party polls since the PM was busy with “other very important affairs.”

The counsel further informed the bench that PM Sharif landed back home from a foreign tour but Iqbal, the party’s SG, was still in Geneva.

The defence side assured the ECP bench that PML-N intra-party polls would be held latest by this month-end—January 31—and sought time till then.

“After every 15 days… you come up with the assurance that PML-N party polls are being held but that never happens,” the CEC told the defence counsel.

He warned that the ECP would withdraw the PML-N election symbol if N-League failed to hold the party polls.

Later, the bench directed the defence side to assure the conduct of intra-party elections by March 14, this year.

In November, last year, the ECP issued notice to Sharif and Iqbal for their failure to hold intra-party elections of the N-League.

Before that, in May last year, the electoral body issued a show cause notice to the PM for his failure to hold intra-party elections of PML-N, warning that N-League would be declared ineligible to get electoral symbol if intra-party polls are not held at the earliest.

According to ECP, intra-party polls in PML-N were due by March 13 last year. On N-League’s request, the ECP extended this date and allowed it to hold the intra-party polls latest by May 14, 2022, and submit the related certificate by May 21, 2022, which the PML-N failed to do.

Section 209 of Elections Act 2017 reads: “Certification by the political party— (1) A political party shall, within seven days from completion of the intra-party elections, submit a certificate signed by an office-bearer authorised by the party head, to the commission to the effect that the elections were held in accordance with the constitution of the political party and this act to elect the office-bearers at the federal, provincial and local levels, wherever applicable.”

Sections 215 (4) of Elections Act 2017 state: “Where a political party or combination of political parties, severally or collectively, fails to comply with the provision of Section 209 or Section 210, the commission shall issue to such political party or parties a notice to show cause as to why it or they may not be declared ineligible to obtain an election symbol.”

The Section 215 (5) reads that if a political party or parties to whom show cause notice has been issued under Subsection 4 fails to comply with the provision of Section 209 or Section 210, the commission may after affording it or them an opportunity of being heard, declare it or them ineligible to obtain an election symbol for election to parliament, provincial assembly or a local government, and the commission shall not allocate an election symbol to such political party or combination of political parties in subsequent election.

Copyright Business Recorder, 2023

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