ISLAMABAD: The Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) has informed the Supreme Court that it will not be able to fulfil its constitutional duty of conducting fair elections in Punjab if Ghulam Mahmood Dogar remains the City Chief Police Officer (CCPO), Lahore, as he has an inclination towards a particular political party.

A three-judge SC bench, headed by Justice Ijazul Ahsan and also comprising Justice Mazahar Ali Akbar Naqvi and Justice Muneeb Akhtar, on February 17, suspended the transfer of Ghulam Mahmood Dogar and referred the matter to a five-member bench, where a case about wide-scale transfers and postings in the Punjab police is pending.

The ECP, on Tuesday, through advocate Sajeel Sheharyar Swati filed an application praying to the Court to allow it to be impleaded as a party to the instant petition and heard accordingly in the interest of justice.

“It is not understandable as to why the incumbent officer (Dogar) is entrusted in a particular posting of his choice station. As per the trite law of this land, the transfer and postings are the prerogative of the government, ie, provincial or the federal, and no particular officer can claim any right of posting of his choice,” the ECP’s application stated.

The Punjab Provincial Assembly stood dissolved on 14th January 2023 in terms of Article 112(1) of the constitution and the caretaker government was appointed on 12-01-23 in terms of Article 224(A) of the constitution.

The ECP submitted that for the purpose of the conduct of smooth and transparent elections and to provide a level playing field to the contesting candidates and political parties, issued directives for the caretaker government on 22-01-23. The letters were also written to the chief secretary Punjab and Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa on 26-01-23 for the reshuffling of all administrative officers for ensuring free, fair and impartial elections. It is considered view of the Commission that without reshuffling of such partisan officers, free and fair elections shall not be possible in line with Articles 218 and 230 and the Elections Act, 2017.

The ECP is charged with a constitutional duty to ensure that the elections are conducted honestly, justly, fairly and in accordance with the law and that the corrupt practice are guarded against. It is imperative that to ensure that the constitutional duty as envisaged in Article 218(3) is fulfilled, the machinery assisting the Commission is neutral and non-partisan, and also has no germs of affiliations with a political party.

The incumbent officer (Dogar) has an inclination towards a particular political party and therefore, the Commission has reasons to believe that he will not be able to fulfil its constitutional duties if the said officer remains the head of Division during the conduct of the Punjab Provincial Assembly elections in Lahore.

It further submitted that the Supreme Court in Workers Party’s case (PLD 2012 SC 681) has mandated the Commission to take pre-emptive measures to guard against any corrupt practices or even a possibility thereof so that the elections are conducted freely, honestly, justly, and fairly, and in accordance with the law.

Copyright Business Recorder, 2023

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