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ISLAMABAD: The Supreme Court has asked the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) to comply with the constitutional command of holding elections in the Punjab and Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa within 90 days.

Chief Justice Umar Ata Bandial asked the ECP to find the way, adding if it cannot then they would do it. The Commission was asked to prepare a comprehensive plan for elections and present it in court today (Thursday). The CJP suggested that if there are security issues then polls could be held on two days instead of one.

A five-judge bench, headed by Chief Justice Bandial, and comprising Justice Ijazul Ahsan, Justice Munib Akhtar, Justice Aminuddin Khan, and Justice Jamal Khan Mandokhel on Wednesday 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.

CJP says ECP has no power to extend election date

The chief justice said efforts should be made by all sides to maintain peace and calmness. Intolerance, bitterness, and animosity have risen in society, adding as a result of political conflict, the State institutions have to get involved though they must not be entering into political debate.

The chief justice said political rivalry needs to be reduced and a conducive environment be created. You need to be fair for free and fair elections. You need to be a sportsman. If you are a gladiator, you will chop all.

Attorney General Mansoor Awan stated that after the 1997 elections, there were allegations of rigging, but both sides (opposition and government) show political maturity, adding the political maturity required that we all sit together.

The chief justice said we have to control the anger. Chairman Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (Imran Khan) would have to give an undertaking in writing. There must be someone from the other political parties to give the commitment.

Justice Bandial said the object of the proceeding is to keep the constitutional course and not to benefit any side. He said democratic right was exercised by the chief minister of the two provinces. Their decision may be untimely, or in hubris they did it. Rollback is not permissible.

The Supreme Court asked the ministries of Defence and the Interior to inform what is the shortest possible time when the security situation would improve so that elections in Punjab and Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa could be held. There should be no long timeframe for polls. There should be a reasonable date.

The chief justice noted that one day (March 22) before the announcement of the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP)’s order to postpone elections in Punjab and the KP, an army brigadier was assassinated in South Waziristan. The AGP informed that 540 lives, both civil and armed forces, were lost till March 14.

Justice Bandial said despite the internal strife the elections were held in Ireland. Ali Zafar stated that during the Iran-Iraq war, the elections were held in Iran.

Earlier, Justice Jamal Khan Mandokhel said due to his statement (this is our internal matter) confusion was created, and the media reported his statement out of context. He stated that he talked about internal matter in relation to the administrative power of the chief justice and that they would request the CJP to call the meeting of the Rules Making Committee to examine the SC Rules.

Justice Jamal said the two judges (him and Justice Mansoor) have passed short order and the detailed judgment. He said four judges have dismissed the suo motu and the petitions regarding the elections in Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa and Punjab, adding the order of the court on suo moto was of four members, but the chief justice has not issued that order.

He said when there is no order of the Supreme Court in the field then how President had given a date (April 30) for the Punjab Assembly elections. “I stand by the brief and detailed decisions I gave,” Justice Jamal added.

He said in the five-member bench though they (him and Justice Mansoor) were in minority and had written dissenting notes, unwillingly signed the order of the majority (three judges). He said when there was no Court order i.e. of the four members of the seven-judge bench then how the president announced the date for the Punjab general elections.

Advocate Farooq H Naek, representing the PPPP, asked the chief justice in this scenario when it is not clear which order is the order of the court; therefore, he requested the bench to constitute Full Court to examine this matter.

Upon that, Justice Jamal said why the Full Court… why not the same seven-member bench hear it. Naek said the Court should first resolve this issue whether an order regarding elections in KP and the Punjab was of 3-2 or 4-3 in order to safeguard the independence, dignity, and the honour of the apex court.

The chief justice asked him to file his submission in writing. The CJP then directed the Election Commission’s lawyer Sajeel Swatti to make his submission on the PTI’s petition.

As Sajeel Swatti started arguments, Justice Jamal inquired him to which order the ECP had met with the President for the date of Punjab elections. Justice Munib said Justice Yahya Afridi and Justice Athar Minallah who wrote dissenting notes are part of the record.

Copyright Business Recorder, 2023


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