- Rules ECP's decision to postpone polls 'unconstitutional'
The Supreme Court (SC) said on Tuesday that the Election Commission of Pakistan’s (ECP) decision to postpone polls in Punjab till October 8 is unconstitutional.
The SC bench maintained that 13 days were wasted because of the ECP’s unlawful decision.
The court ruled that the Constitution and law do not allow the ECP to postpone the elections, ordering that the elections in Punjab be held on May 14 instead of April 30.
The apex court directed the caretaker government in Punjab to assist the ECP with elections next month and said the federal government has been asked to assist the commission, ordering authorities to release Rs21 billion to the ECP by April 10.
It also asked the commission to inform the court if the government refused to do so.
As per the court, candidates will be able to submit nomination papers from April 10. The ECP will publish the list of candidates on April 19, and electoral symbols will be issued by April 20.
The ECP had earlier set the date for elections in Punjab on April 30, but then postponed them to October 8 — in Punjab as well as KP.
Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) filed a plea in the top court against this decision.
A three-judge bench, headed by Chief Justice Umar Ata Bandial, and comprising Justice Ijazul Ahsan, Justice Munib Akhtar, announced its reserved verdict today.
The initial bench comprised Chief Justice of Pakistan (CJP) Umar Ata Bandial, Justice Ijaz Ul Ahsan, Justice Munib Akhtar, Justice Aminuddin Khan, and Justice Jamal Khan Mandokhail. However, Justice Aminuddin and Justice Mandokhail had recused themselves from hearing the case.
Ahead of the hearing, heavy security was deployed with a large contingent of police guarding the main entrance of the top court.
Moreover, the secretary of defence submitted a report regarding the security situation in the country to the judges in their chamber.
Response to verdict
Following the verdict, PTI’s Shah Mahmood Qureshi said that today was an important day for the country’s politics. He said the people of Pakistan should be proud that there are those who did not come under pressure and were not affected by threats.
“I would like to congratulate Pakistan’s lawyer fraternity who stood by the chief justice,” he said.
The PTI leader said he is requesting Punjab’s civil service and police to ensure fair elections and be neutral.
Federal Minister for Law and Justice Azam Nazeer Tarar had said on Monday that it would not accept the SC’s decision on a sensitive and important issue if it was made “in haste”.
Timeline of hearing
The hearing on PTI’s plea began on March 27 when Justice Munib Akhtar issued a notice to the ECP for going against Supreme Court orders of holding elections in April and postponing them to October.
On its second hearing, Justice Bandial said that ECP’s decision to postpone Punjab assembly elections was “taken in haste”.
The chief justice said that this was the first time the Supreme Court is examining the possibility of postponing elections and questioned whether the constitution allows this. He also proposed a pay cut for himself and other judges to enable authorities to fund elections across the country.
On Thursday, Justice Aminuddin Khan recused himself from hearing the case, followed by Justice Jamal Khan Mandokhail a day later.
During the hearing on Monday, the bench reserved the judgment, with the CJP saying the political side still “has time to negotiate, and to settle rather to create yet another issue”.
“We are not rigid,” he said.
He said as unfortunately there was no political dialogue, the case had been brought to the Supreme Court.