SC challenges PHC’s decision regarding local body elections in K-P, issues notice

The Supreme Court has issued a notice to the Election Commission of Pakistan on Thursday in a case pertaining to the Peshawar High Court’s (PHC) decision regarding local body elections in Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa (K-P).

Justice Umar Ata Bandial while presiding a two-member bench heard the case and gave directive to the advocate general of KP and other parties to provide judicial assistance.

Justice Bandial questioned why local body elections cannot be held on a party basis in the province, to which Advocate General K-P Shamail Butt said the PHC did not disclose its reasons in the decision.

“The PHC has ordered local body elections on December 19,” Advocate General K-P Shamail Butt said.

“Let’s wait for the reasons in the detailed decision of the PHC,” Justice Bandial urged.

Justice Bandial went on to state that the parties involved belong to political parties and Khushdal Khan is a member of the provincial assembly, while Kamran Murtaza is a senator.

“All parties should remain neutral while supporting the court, and should aim for fair and transparent elections,” he said.

Lawyer Kamran Murtaza maintained that there no mechanisms could be formed erected for a party-based election in such a short period of time.

He added that the ECP had resolved this matter and had begun issuing ballot papers. To this, Justice Sajjad Ali Shah questioned what solution the ECP had devised to issue ballot papers.

Justice Bandial recommended adding pictures of the candidates to the ballot papers.

“Whatever the solution is, the ECP cannot do anything until the provincial government amends its rules,” Advocate Shamail maintained. Justice Bandial then gave a week to all candidates to aid the court with their suggestions.

“Clear and transparent elections are the responsibility of the ECP,” Justice Sajjad said. The two-member bench also suggested that the case should be taken up before a three-member bench.

As per the advocate general, there is no legal mechanism for holding elections on a party basis, and if the government does agree to hold local body elections on a party basis, there is no scope for it within the law.

As a response, Justice Bandial asked the advocate to bring forth the ordinance, emphasising that the other three provinces hold local body elections on party basis. He also questioned what was wrong in adopting the mechanism of the other provinces.

“The high court should have given time for the elections, instead of providing a schedule,” Shamail stated, adding that this will be the first election of its kind to have three candidates from the same party with election symbols on the same ballot paper.

Advocate General Shamail further questioned how illiterate voters will distinguish between the symbols and decide who they should vote for.

To this, Justice Bandial asked what amendment could be made to the law which would make village council elections party-based.

It is pertinent to note that the case has been adjourned till November 30.

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