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ISLAMABAD: The Supreme Court three-judge special bench, headed by Chief Justice Umar Ata Bandial, today (Thursday) will take up a petition for the holding of elections across the country on same day and not releasing of Rs21 billion to the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) for holding elections in the Punjab.

The chief justice; however, will not sit on the regular bench on Thursday in courtroom number 1, and according to the roster will do “chamber work”.

The same bench, which also includes Justice Ijazul Ahsan and Justice Munib Akhtar, on April 20, while hearing the Civil Miscellaneous Applications of the Defence Ministry, the Finance Division, and the ECP, and the petition of Sardar Kashif Khan had ordered the attorney general to file a progress report on 27th April on political dialogue for holding elections simultaneously of the National Assembly and all the provincial assemblies.

Election date still not agreed upon as SC adjourns hearing

The court had noted that it is important that such a result is accomplished expeditiously in view of its judgment dated 04.04.2023 that has already fixed the date of elections to the Punjab Provincial Assembly on 14.05.2023. The bench cautioned that its judgment holds the field and, therefore, its ruling is binding on all judicial and executive authorities in the country under Article 189 and Article 190 of the Constitution.

The apex court had asked all political parties to evolve a consensus on the date for holding simultaneous general elections of the National Assembly and the four provincial assemblies expeditiously; otherwise, the court noted, its order regarding the Punjab Assembly elections on May 14 would come into force.

Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) leader Khawaja Saad Rafique, Qamar Zaman Kaira from PPPP; Engineer Sabir Hussain Kaimkhani from MQM-P; Tariq Bashir Cheema from PML-Q; Israrullah Tareen from BAP, Shah Mahmood Qureshi, Vice President, Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI), Sardar Ayaz Sadiq duly instructed on behalf of BNP (Mengal), and Ameer Jamaat-e-Islami Sirajul Haq appeared before the court.

Ameer JI had suggested a timeframe under which two important events ought to be accounted for: first, the wheat harvesting season in May and second, the occasion of Hajj. According to him, the General Elections could be held immediately thereafter.

The attorney general had informed the Court that a meeting has been scheduled among the leaders of the major political parties on 26.04.2023.

The bench on April 19 had 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 report the federal government did not itself have the requisite constitutional authority and power at all times to authorize the expenditure of Rs21 billion for the general elections, cannot be accepted.

The effect of the Federal Cabinet’s decision to refer the matter to the National Assembly, and for Demand No. 64A to be rejected when voted upon by that House may now be considered.

The bench considered that in the system of the parliamentary democracy envisaged by the Constitution the government of the day must command the confidence of the majority of the National Assembly at all times. Furthermore, given that the office of Prime Minister has primacy (who is declared by Article 91(1) to be the chief executive of the Federation), this also means that the Prime Minister must enjoy the confidence of the majority of the National Assembly at all times.

The Attorney General was directed to draw the attention of the Federal Cabinet and the Prime Minister to the foregoing so that the matter is remedied at the earliest. “The Court requires that appropriate remedial measures be taken in full measure not later than 27.04.2023 and, in particular, by that date the sum of Rs21 Billion be provided, in immediately available and realizable funds, to the Commission for the holding of the general elections to the Punjab and KPK Assemblies.”

Copyright Business Recorder, 2023

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