President Arif Alvi on Friday sent a letter to Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif urging him to ensure the implementation of a Supreme Court ruling on conducting polls in Punjab and Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa within 90 days of the dissolution of their assemblies with the “barest minimum” deviation.
On Wednesday, the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) postponed elections in Punjab from April 30 to Oct. 8, citing security reasons and financial difficulties. The Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI)—which the president is affiliated with—has rejected this, claiming it is “contempt of court” and vowed to challenge it before the apex court.
Reacting to the development, the president noted that Article 224(2) of the Constitution required elections to be held within 90 days of an assembly’s dissolution, adding that the Supreme Court ruling had validated this. “It appears [the] federal and caretaker governments in Punjab and Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa advised the heads of concerned departments to indicate their inability to provide necessary support for holding general elections,” he said, referring to the ECP’s postponement order. Citing Article 220, which calls on all executive authorities to assist the ECP in discharging its functions, Alvi alleged the briefings by government officials were a “flagrant violation of the Constitution.”
In this regard, the president said that the federal and provincial governments should be directed to refrain from abuse of human rights and also assist the ECP in holding hold general elections in Punjab and KP “within the timeframe in compliance of Supreme Court’s order dated March 1 to avoid further complications including contempt of court.”
In his letter, Alvi said that the prime minister, being head of the government, was responsible for safeguarding human rights as well as the fundamental rights of every citizen of Pakistan as enshrined in the Constitution. Referring to “events” highlighted by print, electronic, and social media, he claimed glaring violations of fundamental and human rights needed to be brought to the premier’s notice to ensure remedial measures and preventive action.
Drawing the premier’s attention to the seriousness of alleged human rights violations, he claimed multiple fake and frivolous cases had been registered against politicians, workers, journalists and media persons; houses of political workers had been raided, and citizens had been “abducted” without warrants and lawful justification. Claiming these actions were a “clear breach and violation of fundamental rights” guaranteed by Article 4 of the Constitution, he claimed this had “tarnished” the image of Pakistan globally and was negatively impacting the future of democracy and state of human rights in Pakistan.
He also highlighted that the World Press Freedom Index of 2021 had ranked Pakistan at 145 of 180 countries, with the ranking dropping to 157 in the World Press Freedom Index 2022. This, he claimed, reflected “sorry state of affairs” and “this year’s actions and images thereof will further exacerbate Pakistan’s already dismal ranking.” [According to the Reporters Without Borders, the data-gathering for the 2022 Index stopped in January 2022—when the PTI-led government was in power]. According to the president, media has been further suppressed in recent months and journalists have also been subjected to charges of sedition and terrorism to stifle dissent and criticism against the government. “It appears that a reign of terror has been unleashed against the media persons who have independent opinions,” he claimed.
Alvi also claimed it was a matter of concern that the prime minister had undertaken no meaningful consultation with the president on policy issues in line with Article 46 of the Constitution. He added that Rule 15(5) of Rules of Business, 1973 also highlighted the responsibility of the premier to furnish such information relating to the administration of affairs of the federation and proposals for legislation as the president may call for.