A five-member larger bench of the Supreme Court on Monday issued notices to the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) to “assist in legal questions and the factual points raised” in a petition filed by the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) against the postponing of elections in Punjab from April 30 to Oct. 8.
Headed by Chief Justice of Pakistan (CJP) Umar Ata Bandial, the bench heard the plea filed by the PTI and, in addition to the ECP, also issued notices to the governors of Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa and Punjab through their respective chief secretaries. In its order, the court noted that the petitioners had maintained that the ECP’s postponing of elections in Punjab had “annulled” the date for polls announced by President Arif Alvi, adding that the body lacked the power to pass the order.
It said that the petitioner had argued that the ECP’s order had invoked Article 254 of the Constitution in its defense, which envisages post-facto protection of the validity of the acts performed beyond the time fixed therefore by the Constitution. However, the lawyer had argued that this does not confer the prior authorization of delay in the execution of obligations required to be performed within a specified time prescribed by the Constitution.
Noting that timely general elections held “honestly, justly, fairly and in accordance with law” were crucial for the democratic system of government mandated by the Constitution, the order stated that “any flaw, deficiency or failing in the holding of general elections is, prima facie, a matter of public importance that affects the fundamental rights of the voting public.”
Earlier, during proceedings, the court had sought assurance from both sides that the elections would be peaceful, transparent, and fair. The CJP had said that the parties would decide what those assurances would be like, not the court. “The current situation is alarming. Elections can only be held when the conditions are favorable,” he remarked, stressing the country’s atmosphere had turned poisonous due to political intolerance. “The present political situation is terrible. Politicians are at each other’s throats,” he said, urging both the government and the PTI to decide what is best for Pakistan.
The CJP had also remarked that the ECP required facilitation and support for conducting polls.
Apart from the CJP, the bench included Justices Ijazul Ahsan, Munib Akhtar, Aminud Din Khan and Jamal Khan Mandokhail.