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ISLAMABAD: The Supreme Court will announce the judgment on the delay in the holding of elections in the Punjab and Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa today (Wednesday) at 11am.

A five-judge bench, headed by Chief Justice Umar Ata Bandial and comprising Justice Syed Mansoor Ali Shah, Justice Muneeb Akhtar, Justice Jamal Khan Mandokhail, and Justice Muhammad Ali Mazhar heard the suo moto and the petitions of the speakers of the Punjab and the KP and the Islamabad High Court Bar Association.

In eight hours proceeding, the bench considered the questions: Who has the constitutional responsibility and authority for appointing the date for the holding of general elections to a Provincial Assembly, upon its dissolution in the various situations envisaged by and under the Constitution? How and when is this constitutional responsibility to be discharged?

Punjab, KP elections: The question of interpretation of statute comes in

Attorney General for Pakistan, Advocate Generals of Punjab and the KP, and the counsels of the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP), political parties (PPPP, PML-N and JUI-P), and even the counsel of President Alvi have said that under the constitution the governor is authorised to appoint the date for the provincial assemblies.

Salman Akram Raja, representing the president, told that regarding the election date for the KP Assembly the president should have not announced the date, adding that but, he could give a date for the elections of the Punjab assembly as the governor was not giving a date. Justice Mazhar inquired whether the President has withdrawn the notification with respect to the date for the KP Assembly’s elections. Salman said he would do so.

Justice Jamal Khan Mandokhail questioned is the President’s order with regard to the Punjab Assembly not in violation of the Lahore High Court (LHC)’s judgment, which still holds the field as no one has challenged it.

The LHC single bench had ordered the ECP to give a date for elections after holding consultation with the Punjab governor. Salman replied that as the governor was not announcing the date; therefore, the president gave the date. Time is of the essence and the time is running out, he said and added that 90 days timeframe needed to be taken seriously.

The Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP)’s lawyer, Sajeel Sheryar Swati, informed the bench that the president, for the general elections of and 2018, gave dates on the advice of the prime minister. He said they have discussed the matter with the Punjab governor but he said as he has not dissolved the assembly; therefore, cannot give a date.

Advocate General Punjab Shan Gul contended that the president does not have the power to appoint a date for the elections of the Punjab Assembly, adding that Section 57(1) of the Election Act, 2017 runs contrary to Article 112 (2) of the Constitution.

He informed that the PTI government before the dissolution of the provincial assembly created new four divisions and six districts. The judgment of the LHC reversed the PTI government’s decision, adding now the delimitation has to take place in these divisions and the districts.

All the counsels of the political parties said that they are ready for the elections and that the constitutional requirement should be met, but the country is facing a financial crisis and there is also a security issue, while the Census would be published in April. They also said that the tenure of the National Assembly and the Provincial Assemblies of Sindh and Balochistan will end in October, so why not wait for some more months.

In view of their submission, Justice Mansoor suggested that why not the PTI and the PDM show flexibility and decide about the elections amicably.

Copyright Business Recorder, 2023

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