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Pakistan

Why was president not advised to hold same-day polls, CJP Bandial asks ECP

  • Supreme Court adjourns hearing of Punjab polls delay case till Thursday
Published May 24, 2023
Photo: Reuters
Photo: Reuters

Chief Justice of Pakistan (CJP) Umar Ata Bandial on Wednesday asked the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) why it did not advise President Dr Arif Alvi to hold federal and provincial elections across the country on the same day.

During a hearing of ECP’s plea to revisit April 4 ruling ordering holding of elections in May, he noted that the electoral watchdog did not brief the president about the security measures or allocation of funds either.

A three-member bench comprising CJP Bandial and Justices Ijazul Ahsan and Munib Akhtar conducted the hearing of the case.

“Without mentioning the ground realities, more powers are being sought under Article 218(3) [of the Constitution],” he said. “When the Constitution gives powers, keep your eyes and mind open before using them.”

Article 213(3) of the Constitution hands ECP the responsibility of organising and conducting elections by making arrangements that ensure polls are conducted honestly, justly, fairly and in accordance with the law.

During the hearing, Bandial also remarked that the apex court had a “clean heart” and would not use the past against the government.

He told Attorney General for Pakistan (AGP) Mansoor Usman Awan that “you should not worry. We are sitting here to hear you. If a reasonable point is raised, we will review it and take a decision”.

The apex court then adjourned the hearing of the case till Thursday, May 25.

On Tuesday, SC held the hearing of the same case and said that the rights of millions of people in the country were linked to polls.

It observed that the federal government and the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) were now taking interest in the proceedings to review the fixing of a date for the Punjab elections.

April 4 ruling

On April 4, the SC had ordered the government and the ECP to hold elections for Punjab assembly on May 14 but both institutions said this would not be possible due to shortage of resources, including funds and manpower.

SC underlined that ECP’s decision to postpone polls in Punjab till October 8 was unconstitutional.

The court ruled that the Constitution and law did 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.

However, the government claimed that it lacked the funds and manpower in view of worsening security situation in the country. Subsequently, the ECP filed a petition earlier in May and urged SC to revisit its verdict.

The Punjab elections were not held on May 14.

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