Not obligated to give election date, Punjab governor tells LHC

Justice Jawwad Hassan says he will announce the verdict after hearing the case on February 13

Shahid Hussain
Governor Punjab Baligh ur Rehman addressing an event in this undated photo. —APP/File
Governor Punjab Baligh ur Rehman addressing an event in this undated photo. —APP/File 

  • ECP seeks time to submit response.
  • Centre asks LHC to form larger bench.
  • Governor says he is discharging duties as per law.

LAHORE: Punjab Governor Baligh ur Rehman Thursday told the Lahore High Court (LHC) that he was not responsible for announcing the election date in the province after the dissolution of the assembly.

"It is emphatically denied that the answering respondent No 1 was in any manner obligated to appoint the date of elections when he has never dissolved the assembly while acting on the so-called advice of the chief minister," the governor said in his reply to the LHC.

In his eight-page response, Governor Rehman also denied the allegations that he is "creating any hurdles in the way of the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) to discharge its duties" and termed these as "fallacious."

The high court is hearing petitions filed by the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) and a private citizen Munir Ahmed seeking a date for general elections in Punjab. The former ruling party and the citizen had approached the court after the governor refused to fix a date for the polls despite a letter by the Election Commission in this regard.

Governor Rehman also asked the court to dismiss the PTI petition with a fine, adding that he is discharging his duties as per law and the Constitution. 

During the hearing, PTI counsel Ali Zafar argued that the president can give the date if the ECP and governor failed to do so.

He maintained that the polls should be held before April 13, the only question is to fix a date.

At this, Additional Attorney General Nasar Ahmed said that even if the ECP failed to implement the order even after the announcement of the election schedule, what would happen then?

He also requested the court to form a larger bench to hear the case.

Justice Jawwad Hassan of the LHC then asked the government's lawyer what sort of a practical order he was expecting.

Meanwhile, the ECP counsel sought time to submit a reply, saying he was appointed just a day ago and wasn't able to see court orders in this regard.

"Elections are our responsibility but the date is to be given by the governor," he said.

The lawyer noted that in case of by-polls the commission announces the polls schedule, however, the law is different when it comes to general elections.

In response to an argument, the LHC judge said that Article 105 of the Constitution needs interpretation.

When the PTI counsel insisted that the ECP is bound to hold elections under Article 218 and if it refused to do, the president can fix a date, Justice Jawwad said, the president is not a party in this case.

Verdict likely next week

When the PTI insisted on an early announcement of the election date, Justice Jawwad Hassan remarked that he will announce the verdict after hearing the case on February 13.

He also issued directives to the ECP and governor's lawyers to submit responses by tomorrow and adjourned the hearing.

PTI leader Fawad Chaudhry, who was present in the court, said that if a date is not announced within three days, it would be a violation of the 90-day deadline set in the Constitution. 

"They [PDM government] are trying their best to delay polls," the former minister said urging the court to hear the case on Saturday.