ISLAMABAD: The Supreme Court called the order of the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) to delay the elections in Punjab, which were scheduled for April 30, until October 8 an “obstruction” in the way of its directive to hold fresh elections in Punjab and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa within a constitutional timeframe of 90 days.
The apex court Monday took up a petition moved by Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI) against the order of the tribunal to delay the elections which it ruled will now be held together with general elections in the country.
A larger bench of five justices, headed by Chief Justice Umar Ata Bandial and comprising justices Ijaz ul-Ahsan, Munib Akhtar, Amin ud-Din Khan, and Jamal Khan Mandokhail, heard the case and served notices on the federation, ECP and caretaker administrations in Punjab and KP.
On Wednesday, the ECP postponed the elections for more than five months, claiming that “it is not possible to hold and organise the elections honestly, justly, fairly, in a peaceful manner.” It said it would be unable to provide a “level playing field” to all political parties.
The move violated the Supreme Court ruling earlier this month that a new election be held within 90 days of the two parliaments being disbanded.
Subsequently, Barrister Syed Ali Zafar filed a petition on behalf of PTI, requesting that the tribunal be directed to hold the elections on the previously scheduled date of April 30. It contended that the decision violated the Constitution and amounted to amending and subverting it.
During the proceedings, Zafar informed the Supreme Court that the election commission had failed to comply with the court’s March 1 orders to set a date for elections in Punjab and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa.
Presenting his arguments, the lawyer for the opposition party said the ECP had violated the Supreme Court’s orders thrice. He explained that the electoral watchdog had rejected the election schedule announced by the president and had now postponed the elections until October 8, even though it did not have the authority to set a new date for the polls.
He added that the ECP had overlooked the court’s orders and had violated the 90-day period for announcing the election date.
In response, Justice Mandokhail asked what the petitioner wanted from the court, to which Zafar replied that they wanted the court to ensure the implementation of the Constitution and its orders. At this, the judge reminded the lawyer that the execution of court orders is the responsibility of the high court.
Zafar argued that the apex court had jurisdiction over the matter since it had previously used its authority in the case. Justice Akhtar concurred with the PTI lawyer and noted that the decision of the ECP had become an obstruction to the court’s orders.
He observed that only the Supreme Court could decide whether the orders had been violated or not.
More details to follow