ISLAMABAD: The Supreme Court issued notices to the political parties asking them to send their representatives today (Thursday) regarding the holding of elections in the Punjab and Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa.
The Court directed the federal government to provide Rs21 billion to the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) by 27.04.2023 for the holding of the general elections to the Punjab and KPK Assemblies.
A three-judge bench, headed by Chief Justice Umar Ata Bandial, and comprising Justice Ijazul Ahsan and Justice Munib Akhtar heard the Civil Miscellaneous Applications of the Defence Ministry, the Finance Division, and the ECP, and the petition of Sardar Kashif Khan for holding of election across the country the same day.
The notices are also issued to the Federation, the ECP, and the Attorney General for Pakistan under Order 27A of the CPC.
Sardar Kashif Khan, a citizen, has filed the petition for ending the impasse on the issue of holding General Elections to the Punjab and KP Provincial Assemblies through political dialogue.
The Court noted that there is resistance to comply with its order dated April 4, 2023, by the ECP, the Federal Government, and the Ministry of Defence.
The Court considering the alternative route proposed by the petitioner’s counsel said it cannot operate to negate or erase the date fixed by the Court in its judgment dated 04.04.2023 for the holding of General Elections to the Punjab Provincial Assembly which is in line with the dictates of the Constitution. This is for the reason that political dialogue must not be made a means for avoiding the imperative obligation under Articles 112 and 224 of the Constitution to hold a general election to a provincial assembly with 90 days of its dissolution.
The court warned that if the matter is not resolved through political process then May 14 date for the elections in Punjab and KP stays. The chief justice said there is nothing magical about October 8 deadline, adding the elections could be held sooner.
Attorney General for Pakistan Usman Mansoor Awan informed that political engagement is going on as PPP Chairman Bilawal Bhutto Zardari yesterday ((Tuesday) met with the prime minister. He told that the prime minister has summoned the meeting of the PDM leaders, adding the parties wanted to resolve the present political impasse through political process. Over the course of 48 hours much development had taken place.
“I have spoken to the members of the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) Committee, formed by the PM,” the AGP told the court. He said Amir Jamaat-e-Islami (JI) had met with the prime minister and a delegation of JI also met with Chairman Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) Imran Khan at Zaman Park. “The engagement is going seriously at the top leadership level.” He asked the court to grant a little time to come up with the solution through political process.
The chief justice appreciated his statement, saying; “it is very well received.” However, Justice Bandial said there is constitutional mandate that the elections should be held within 90 days. This matter can’t be postponed.”
Advocate Shah Khawar, representing Sardar Kashif, argued as the Supreme Court order of 4th April is not yet implemented; therefore, his client has filed this petition and made all the political parties as respondents. He said Amir JI has taken up the task to resolve the political impasse through dialogue.
He said the elections in all four provinces and the National Assembly should be held on one day. There will be some complication, if the Punjab and KP elections are held on May 14, adding soon after these elections the polls for the National Assembly and the other two provinces, i.e., Balochistan and Sindh would also have to be held.
He said this situation will create an imbalance as at that time the Punjab and KP would have new governments, while the other two provinces and at the Centre there will be a caretaker set up, adding there could be serious charges of meddling by the executive.
The chief justice remarked why no one on 27 March stated these facts. He asked the attorney general why he did not argue on this point. He said it seems both sides showing bona fide, commitment and confidence-building measures so that the constitutional provision is implemented.
Shah Khawar submitted that the Court has given an opportunity to the political parties to sit down and find the solution. He said even today (Wednesday) the court has hinted at this, adding if the political parties resolve the issue through political process then there will fewer burdens on the armed and the civil forces.
The chief justice said 90 days’ deadline has passed, adding, it is mandatory. However, the CJP noted that this matter is concerned with political justice and the right of the people, which is achieved through political parties. “We have asked the political parties to give assurance, while one side (the PTI) responded,” he said. The attorney general submitted that the political process outside the Supreme Court should be given some time.
The chief justice said that the matters could not be delayed further since the Eidul Fitr holidays were near, adding that his fellow judges were of the opinion that the five days were enough to settle matters.
Justice Ijaz asked Faisal Chaudhry, a PTI lawyer, who was present in the courtroom to get specific instructions from the top party leadership in light of the submission made by Shah Khawar and the statement of the attorney general.
The Court warned the government of “serious consequences” if it failed to release the funds (Rs21 billion) required for conducting polls in Punjab and KP.
The order said: “With respect, we were not satisfied that the earlier resolution stood in the way of the Federal Cabinet exercising its constitutional power under Article 84.”
It said that on the basis of the Finance Division’s report the federal government did not itself have the requisite constitutional authority and power at all times to authorise the expenditure of Rs21 billion for the general elections, cannot be accepted.
Copyright Business Recorder, 2023