CJP expresses dismay over withdrawal of plea seeking annulment of Feb 8 polls

"Court cannot be subjected to such mockery," says top judge while questioning if plea was filed by petitioner himself

Maryam Nawaz
Chief Justice of Pakistan Qazi Faez Isa presides over the hearing of petitions challenging the Supreme Court (Practice and Procedure) Act 2023 on September 18, 2023. — PPI
Chief Justice of Pakistan Qazi Faez Isa presides over the hearing of petitions challenging the Supreme Court (Practice and Procedure) Act 2023 on September 18, 2023. — PPI
  • Three-member conducts hearing on Brig (retd) Ali Khan's plea.
  • CJP Isa wonders if petition was filed by complainant himself or not.
  • "The court cannot be subjected to such mockery," stresses top judge.

ISLAMABAD: Expressing dismay over the withdrawal of the plea seeking annulment of the February 8 elections, Chief Justice of Pakistan (CJP) Qazi Faez Isa on Monday ordered the authorities to find the complainant and present him before the Supreme Court at the next hearing.

Stressing that the top court cannot be subjected to such mockery, CJP Isa directed the authorities to "find and present the complainant before the court" stressing that the SC will hear this case.

The top judge's remarks come as a three-member bench of the Supreme Court (SC) led by the chief justice and comprising Justice Musarrat Hilali and Justice Muhammad Ali Mazhar, conducted the hearing on Brig (retd) Ali Khan's petition seeking re-elections over the issue of alleged rigging in the polls.

The development comes in the backdrop of concerns raised by several political parties including Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI), Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP), Jamaat-e-Islami and Jamiat Ulema-e-Islam-Fazl (JUI-F) who have expressed dissatisfaction over the transparency of the general elections.

Doubts over the polls were further exacerbated by the revelations made by now-former Rawalpindi commissioner Liaqat Chatha, who on Saturday, tendered his resignation out of "guilty conscience" for abetting large-scale electoral rigging in the garrison city further raising the political mercury in the country.

The Rawalpindi Division comprises 13 National Assembly seats, on which 11 Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) candidates were successful, while the rest were secured by an independent candidate and Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP). The division also has 27 provincial seats — on which PML-N was successful on 15 and 11 independents.

During today's hearing, CJP Isa questioned whether the petition was filed for mere publicity.

"The complainant [had] released the petition to the media as soon it was filed," the top judge said while directing the authorities to establish contact with the petitioner via telephone.

The top judge further directed the additional attorney general to coordinate with the relevant station house officer (SHO) and present the complainant before the court.

"Who knows if the complainant himself filed the petition or not? [...] What if he says that he hasn't withdrawn the petition," the chief justice questioned.

The apex court, during the hearing, was told that the petitioner could neither be reached via his stated telephone number nor his address despite having a notification issued by the Defence Ministry as well.

The court then adjourned the hearing till February 21.

It is pertinent to mention that political parties are not the only ones with reservations over the transparency of polls as the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan (HRCP) has also raised concerns about the reliability and trustworthiness of the general elections — especially the post-polling process.

In its observations, made by HRCP's election monitors, who conducted on-site inspections in 51 constituencies, the body underscored that the nationwide suspension of internet and mobile services on the day of the polls, along with unplanned alterations in polling information, jeopardised voters' ability to locate polling stations.

The ECP must publish all Forms 45, 46, 48, and 49 under the Elections Act 2017 and should order ballot recounts in close contests, especially in cases where the number of rejected ballots exceeds the margin of victory, it added.

SHC constitutes tribunal over rigging allegations

Last week the chief justice of the Sindh High Court (SHC) formed a tribunal for hearing petitions pertaining to rigging in the February 8 general elections. The announcement was made by the Registrar of the SHC in a notification on Friday.

According to the notification, the principal seat of the high court will hear election pleas in Karachi. The notification said the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) Sindh had written a letter seeking the formation of a tribunal to hear petitions related to rigging in elections.

Moreover, two benches have been established for the Karachi division. Bench one will comprise Justice Muhammad Kareem Khan Agha, and bench two will comprise Justice Adnan Iqbal Chaudhry.

Justice Muhammad Iqbal Kalhoro, Justice Amjad Ali Sahito, and Justice Muhammad Saleem Jessar will hear the election petitions in Sukkur, Hyderabad, and Larkana divisions respectively.