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ISLAMABAD: The Supreme Court has been urged to direct the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) to forthwith announce the date for the general elections under Article 224(2) of the constitution, ie, 90 days from the date of dissolution of the national and provincial assemblies.

The Supreme Court Bar Association through its secretary and members, on Wednesday, filed a constitution petition under Article 184(3) of the constitution and cited the Federation, the Council of Common Interests (CCI), the chief secretaries of all the provinces, and the ECP as respondents.

The CCI, which also included caretaker chief ministers of the Punjab and Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa (KP), on 05-08-2023, unanimously approved the digital census 2023.

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The association argued that the caretaker chief ministers were included in the Council in violation of the constitution and CCI Rules, 2010, specifically Rule 5(5).

The delayed approval of the digital census 2023 less than a week prior to the dissolution of the national and the two provincial assemblies created a constitutional dilemma which is required to be resolved by the Supreme Court.

The holding of elections within a period of 90 days of the dissolution of assemblies is a salient feature of the Constitution and any delay in the conduct of General Elections beyond the mandatory period of 90 days as mandated by Article 224(2) of the Constitution, 1973 will be in blatant violation of Articles 4, 5, 6, 9, 17, 51, 106, and 224 of the Constitution.

Any delay in the conduct of elections to the National Assembly and provincial assemblies would amount to subversion of the Constitution and violation of the principles of democracy and rule of law which form the foundation, salient features and basic structure of the Constitution of Pakistan.

The petitioners, therefore, asked the Court to declare that the impugned decision of CCI and the notification of the census are blatantly illegal, in violation of Articles 4, 5, 6, 9, 17, 51, 153, 154, and 224 of the Constitution of Pakistan, 1973as well as judgments of this Honourable Court and set it aside.

The association also requested the Court to declare that the CCI was not properly constituted during its meeting on 05.08.2023, and the forum was coram non judice, without jurisdiction, and therefore, all decisions taken pursuant to the meeting on 05.08.2023 are liable to be set aside. Also, declare that the caretaker chief ministers of Punjab and KPK had no statutory or constitutional right to participate in the CCI meeting as they along with their Cabinet are continuing illegally in office.

The caretaker chief minister of the Punjab was appointed on 22.01.2023, while the caretaker chief minister of KP was appointed on 21.01.2023 upon the dissolution of the provincial assemblies of Punjab and KP under Article 112 (1) of the Constitution.

The petition said that the seat allocation for the National Assembly provided under Article 51 (1) and (3) is based on the previous census, ie, population census of 2017, hence, the same cannot be considered “seat allocation” on the basis of population in accordance with the last preceding census. It submitted that the ECP cannot initiate the process of delimitation under the Election Act, 2017 as well as Rule(s) 7 and 8 of the Election Rules, 2017 as there is no seat allocation based on the impugned decision of the CCI as delimitation of constituencies of the National Assembly can only be carried out after allocation of seats on the basis of the last preceding census.

Copyright Business Recorder, 2023

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