Barring Imran from poll campaigning not legal, PTI tells SCPakistan
ISLAMABAD: A day after the PTI lost a close by-election in NA-122 (Lahore), the party told the Supreme Court that restraining its chief from campaigning for his candidates was a violation of the freedom of association guaranteed by the Constitution.
Preventing the party leader from campaigning and addressing public meetings in the area where by-elections were being held would violate not only the right of parties to conduct political activities, but also Article 19 which ensures freedom of speech and expression, said a PTI rejoinder filed before the Supreme Court by senior counsel and PTI vice president Hamid Khan.
The reply was moved before the apex court, which is already seized with an Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) appeal against a Lahore High Court (LHC) verdict of May 25, 2015. Through a notification on May 7, the ECP had barred holders of public office from “influencing in any way the results of by-polls”.
Also read: We were not prepared for PML-N rigging tactics again: Imran
The notification included members of national and provincial assemblies in the list of public office holders barred from visiting constituencies after the announcement of the election schedule, a modification that the PTI alleges targeted its chief Imran Khan.
The LHC had struck down the bar imposed by the ECP on a petition filed by PTI leader Mansoor Sarwar Khan. But on Aug 10, a three-judge Supreme Court bench, headed by Justice Mian Saqib Nisar, restored the ECP code of conduct on an appeal.
The appeal asked that Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, Punjab Chief Minister Shahbaz Sharif, members of their cabinet as well as MNAs and MPAs be restrained from campaigning for their candidates in the high-profile by-elections for two National Assembly seats, one in Lahore and the other in Lodhran (NA-154). The case will be taken up again on Tuesday.
Though the by-election in NA-122 was held on Sunday, by-polls in NA-154 stand suspended on the orders of the Supreme Court.
Surprisingly, the ECP filed another petition on Saturday (Oct 10), pleading that a different bench of the high court had on Sept 23, struck down the same bar – which it had announced through a notification on April 16 and was an exact copy of the May 7 notification – on a petition filed by PTI’s Shoaib Siddiqui, in derogation of the apex court’s Aug 10 order.
The PTI rejoinder urged the apex court to uphold the high court judgment by the ECP notification to be illegal and unconstitutional. The petition claimed that the ECP notification was based on mala fide intent, because Imran Khan had demanded that the commission’s four provincial members resign over their failure to hold free and fair elections in 2013.
Thus, it alleged that, ECP members were targeting Imran Khan and trying to hurt him by keeping him out of the election campaign during the by-election.
Keeping those in power out of election campaigns was understandable and appropriate, because they were likely to influence the election by using or abusing their power, the application explained.
But MNAs and MPAs do not exercise any such power and financial control and there seems to be no logic behind excluding them from campaigning in election constituencies.
Separately, ECP also challenged before the Supreme Court an order by the LHC’s Rawalpindi bench declaring null and void the delimitation carried out for the upcoming local government elections in Rawalpindi division.
The appeal argued that the high court had failed to properly comprehend the scheme of the election prescribed by the PLGA, adding that the only power with the government under section 7 was to determine the number of union councils in the metropolitan corporation, a municipal corporation, a district council and wards of a municipal committee.
Section 8(2) provides that after the demarcation of the local governments and the determination of the union councils and wards, it was the ECP which would de-limit the union councils and wards, the petition emphasised.
Published in Dawn, October 13th, 2015
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