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ISLAMABAD: The Supreme Court, issuing notices to the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) and the federation regarding the delay in the elections of the Punjab Assembly, questioned under which law the ECP could announce the date.

A five-judge bench, headed by Justice Umar Ata Bandial, and comprising Justice Ijazul Ahsan, Justice Munib Akhtar, Justice Aminuddin Khan, and Justice Jamal Khan Mandokhel, on Monday, heard the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI)’s petition to set aside the ECP’s order dated 22-03-23 to delay the Punjab elections.

The chief justice questioned whether 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.

PTI to challenge Punjab election delay in Supreme Court

“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. “Elections were also delayed in 1988 when the system of government changed,” he said, adding that no one had challenged the matter of extending the date for polls so far.

The CJP said the Commission is a body to hold elections in a free and fair manner, but here they may have gone a little off track, but it can be brought back. He further stated that “Article 254 of the Constitution could not condone the wrongdoing which is referred by ECP”. Justice Munib said the ECP’s decision has become “an obstruction in the orders of the SC”. “Only the Supreme Court can decide better whether the orders were violated or not,” he observed.

Justice Bandial said the court need assurance that the elections are held in a conducive and transparent manner. He noted that the political situation in the country is very tense and has become intolerant and toxic. There is animosity, hostility and bitterness among the political parties. He asked all political parties to give assurance to holding free and fair elections, adding that “political parties should restore calm and peace”. “We cannot interpret the Constitution in a vacuum,” remarked the CJP.

CJP Bandial stated that elections are important for democracy but these can be held in a conducive environment. The chief justice also noted that “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.” “What are our politicians doing for stability in the country? This is a very disturbing situation”, remarked Justice Bandial. Justice Mandokhel questioned what the petitioners want from the apex court, adding; “Why they have not approached the high court for the implementation of the order.” He also asked, “where is the order of the court in suo motu case regarding the announcement of date to hold elections.”

Justice Ijaz said that earlier the ECP’s stance was that it cannot give a date for the elections but had now gone ahead and given a new date for elections. “Is this not a contradiction in its position?” he asked.

Justice Munib referring to the 1st March order stated that the judgement was signed by all five judges. “Don’t be mistaken that the SC had issued two judgements. A dissenting note is very common,” he added.

Copyright Business Recorder, 2023

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