ECP stops training of poll officials following Lahore High Court order

ISLAMABAD: The Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) on Thursday has stopped the ongoing training of District Returning Officers (DROs) and Returning Officers (ROs) following an order issued by the Lahore High Court (LHC). This decision throws a wrench in preparations for the upcoming general elections, originally scheduled to be conducted with the assistance of the executive.

The ECP’s move comes in response to a five-page written verdict issued by Justice Baqir Najafi on petitions filed by Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) challenging the ECP’s earlier notification to involve the executive in the electoral process. In his judgment, Justice Najafi suspended the ECP notification and recommended the formation of a larger bench to hear the case comprehensively. He further directed the Chief Justice to consider the matter.

The LHC order specifically mentions that the ECP’s notification regarding recruitment of bureaucracy for electoral duties is suspended. This effectively halts the training program for DROs and ROs, who play crucial roles in overseeing polling and vote counting at the district and constituency levels, respectively.
The PTI had argued that the ECP’s decision to involve the executive in elections was unconstitutional and undermined the Commission’s independence. The party welcomed the LHC’s ruling, stating that it upholds the sanctity of the electoral process.

The ECP, in its letter to provincial election commissioners, has directed them to immediately stop the ongoing training of DROs and ROs. This unexpected development raises concerns about the timeline for the upcoming elections, which were originally expected to be held soon.
The Chief Justice is now expected to make a decision regarding the formation of a larger bench to hear the petitions challenging the ECP’s notification. The outcome of this legal battle will have a significant bearing on the fate of the upcoming general elections in Pakistan.

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