SC to resume hearing PTI petition on delay in polls shortlyPakistan
The Supreme Court will on Tuesday resume hearing the PTI’s petition against the Election Commission of Pakistan’s (ECP) order to delay the general elections to the Punjab Assembly till Oct 8.
A five-member larger bench — comprising Chief Justice of Pakistan Umar Ata Bandial, Justice Ijazul Ahsan, Justice Munib Akhtar, Justice Aminuddin Khan and Justice Jamal Khan Mandokhail — will take up the case shortly.
Earlier, Dawn reported that newly appointed Attorney-General for Pakistan Mansoor Usman Awan will be representing the government in court today.
Ahead of the hearing, the coalition parties — PPP, JUI-F and PML-N — submitted a request to the top court to become respondents in the case.
As the apex court took up PTI’s petition on Monday, it issued a notice to the ECP and asked the body to come prepared to justify its decision to postpone elections to the Punjab Assembly.
The court also issued notices to respondents namely Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KP) governor, federal secretaries cabinet, parliamentary affairs and law and justice.
During yesterday’s hearing, CJP Bandial had observed that the spirit of the Constitution does not envisage the making or breaking of governments, but rather focuses on ensuring good governance and bringing happiness to the people by protecting their rights.
At the same time, the CJP had also shared his worries regarding the prevailing hostility, animosity, and bitterness which he said had been “sown into our polity”, while questioning the role political leaders were playing in restoring peace and calm in society and seeking a ‘commitment’ from parties in this regard.
PTI’s petition, moved by party’s Secretary General Asad Umar, former Punjab Assembly speaker Mohammad Sibtain Khan, former Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Assembly Speaker Mushtaq Ahmad Ghani and ex-lawmakers of Punjab Abdul Rehman and Mian Mahmoodur Rashid, pleaded that the ECP’s decision was in violation of the Constitution and tantamount to amending and subverting it.
In the petition, PTI sought directions for the federal government to ensure law and order, provisions of funds and security personnel as per the ECP’s need to hold the elections.
It also requested the court to direct the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa governor to announce the date for elections to the provincial assembly. Last week, KP Governor Ghulam Ali also proposed Oct 8 as the date for elections in the province. Earlier, he had announced May 28 as the date for polls.
The PTI questioned the ECP’s authority to “amend the Constitution” and asked how it could decide to delay elections to any assembly beyond the period of 90 days from the date of dissolution of the said assembly as mandated by the Constitution.
The petition argued that the ECP was bound to obey and implement the judgments of the Supreme Court and had no power or jurisdiction to overrule or review them.
The ECP cannot act in defiance of the Supreme Court’s directions as it has done in this case which was illegal and liable to be set aside, the petition pleaded. By announcing Oct 8 as the date, the ECP has delayed the elections for more than 183 days beyond the 90-day limit as prescribed in the Constitution.
The petition said that if the excuse of unavailability of security personnel was accepted this time, it will set a precedent to delay any future elections.
The petition added that there was no assurance that these factors — financial constraints, security situation and non-availability of security personnel — would improve by Oct 8.
The “so-called excuse” would mean the Constitution could be held in abeyance every time elections were due, the petitioners feared adding that in the past similar situations have persisted, but elections were held in spite of them.
These situations can’t be used as excuses to “subvert” the Constitution and deny people their right to elect representatives.
“Not holding elections in case of threats by terrorists will amount to giving in to the threats, which is in fact the aim of all terrorist activities,” the petition explained.