Friday Feb 10, 2023
LAHORE: The Lahore High Court (LHC) late Friday directed the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) to ensure that polls in Punjab are held within 90 days.
Announcing the reserved verdict, Justice Jawad Hassan accepted the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf's (PTI) plea and asked the electoral body to stage the polls within the constitutional limit.
The PTI moved the high court after repeatedly demanding that the election commission issue the dates for the elections in Punjab. The party dissolved the provincial assembly on January 14.
"...the ECP is directed to immediately announce the date of election of the Provincial Assembly of Punjab with the notification specifying reasons, after consultation with the Governor of Punjab, being the constitutional Head of the Province, to ensure that the elections are held not later than ninety days as per the mandate of the Constitution," the judgement read.
During today’s hearing, Inspector General of Punjab Police, Dr Usman Anwar and the chief secretary appeared before the court.
Punjab’s top cop and bureaucrat assured the court that they will follow whatever the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) decides. The chief secretary also said that they would follow through on the court’s order.
Meanwhile, when the ECP’s lawyer, came to the rostrum, he said that the only issue before the court was who would give the date for the polls. He added that there was talk of a provision in the law allowing the ECP and the president to give a date for the elections.
The lawyer objected to that stance, saying the ECP and the president were not the parties in the case.
“The court cannot issue orders to those who are not made the party in the case,” said the lawyer.
At this, the PTI’s lawyer Barrister Ali Zafar said that they made the Election Commission a party to the case by amending the petition. Upon hearing this, the ECP lawyer said that the president was yet to be made party to the case.
“Your objection is that ECP is not a party [in the case],” asked Justice Hassan.
The counsel told the court that the commission was not a party in giving a date for the elections. He also asked the LHC to show the law which states that the ECP is liable to give a date for the general election.
“The court itself said that they do not want to issue a verdict which cannot be implemented,” reminded the ECP lawyer. He added that implementing Article 220 was not the electoral body’s job.
"How my client can conduct the polls if it is not being provided with funds?" He also told the court that the ECP requires complete support from the federal government.
“I have objections to the acceptance of this plea. In the law, election date can be delayed,” said the lawyer. He reiterated that there is no law which states that the ECP is bound to give a date for the elections.
On the other hand, Governor Baligh ur Rehman’s lawyer Shahzad Shaukat said that allegations have been made against his client in all the petitions.
Shaukat contended that if the governor had dissolved the assembly then he would have been asked to announce the date. He also urged the court to reject the petition for being ineffective.
When the governor’s lawyer pushed the court that the governor was not bound to give a date for the polls, Justice Hassan asked if it was not clear in the Constitution then can the president be asked to give a date for the elections.
“Read Article 48, the president has the same role as the governor,” responded Shaukat.
PTI’s counsel Barrister Ali Zafar, while responding to the governor’s lawyer, told the court that the chief secretary and IG had assured the court of performing their duties.
Zafar also contended that the president could give a date for the elections, adding that the question of not giving an election date cannot be left unaddressed.
“Governor, president, and Election Commission can give a date for the polls via a notification. Silence cannot be maintained on this,” said Barrister Ali Zafar. He added that the president has not said no and if the court directs then he will follow orders.