LAHORE: The Lahore High Court (LHC) on Tuesday summoned the Attorney General of Pakistan Ashtar Ausaf Ali to provide required support to the court on the proposal to add the “none of the above” (NOTA) option in the ballot papers to be published for the upcoming general elections.
The hearing of the petition filed by Wasim Rana was administered by Justice Shahid Karim who enquired from the former attorney general Salman Butt about the possible outcomes of including the option of NOTA in the ballot papers.
Butt maintained before the court that in the countries where such an option exists for the voters to vote for none of those candidates contesting the elections, the voter turnout has increased as a matter of fact.
The court further asked the Election Commission of Pakistan’s (ECP) counsel to produce the notification that was issued before the 2013 elections which allowed the admission of NOTA option in the ballot papers, however, the notification was later withdrawn amid pressure from political parties.
Justice Shahid Kareem said that since the matter requires urgent attention and decision, the court wants to decide the matter on next hearing, which is to take place on June 20. It is worth mentioning that the ECP has already said that the ballot papers would not be sent for publishing before June 29.
Earlier, the LHC had issued notices to ECP and Parliamentary Law Affairs Ministry to seek instructions to add NOTA option in the ballot papers.
The counsel for the petitioner Sheraz Zaka had said the voters should have the right to choose none of those candidates contesting the elections in their respective constituencies as it is likely to enhance the public confidence and scope of political expression which is important for the strengthening of democracy.
However, the counsel for the ECP argued that there is no such obligation upon them by the Elections Act 2017 to inculcate NOTA section in the ballot papers. However, the court restrained the publishing of the ballot papers before June 17 and fixed the date of the next hearing for June 12.