ECP extends polling date for Daska election on Home Department report

ISLAMABAD (APP): The Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) on Tuesday informed the Supreme Court that it extended polling date in NA-75 Sialkot-IV (Daska) election.

Advocate Abdul Rauf counsel for the ECP informed a three-member bench that according to the Home Department Punjab report, the situation in the constituency was still the same.

A three-member SC bench comprising Justice Umar Ata Bandial, Justice Sayyed Mazahar Ali Akbar Naqvi and Justice Qazi Muhammad Amin heard the petition filed by PTI candidate Asjad Ali Malhi seeking suspension of the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) decision to hold re-polls in NA-75 Sialkot-IV (Daska).

During the course of proceedings, Justice Umar Ata Bandial said it was the mistake of the Election Commission not to deploy the army to maintain law and order in the Daska elections.

He remarked that the army was not deployed in the by-elections in Daska but the Election Commission relied on the police for law and order.

Justice Umar Ata Bandial said his family voted in the 2018 elections and praised the polling process. The 2018 election process was peaceful and the reason for the election being peaceful was the posting of Pakistan Army, he added.

The counsel for PTI candidate pleaded the court to set aside the ECP’s ruling calling for re-election in the entire constituency.

Responding to this, Justice Bandial denied the request, saying that re-polling would take place for sure but it was yet to be determined whether it would happen in the entire constituency or in certain polling areas.

He said the court would take a final decision after hearing arguments from Salman Akram Raja – the PML-N candidate’s lawyer – who could not deliver his stance in court today as he was suffering from Covid-19.

Justice Bandial said the Election Commission had postponed the election schedule, “perhaps they have extended the polling date because of this case.”

The PTI lawyer said the polling date was postponed at the request of the Punjab government. There were some transfers and appointments in the constituency on the direction of the Election Commission, he added.

Justice Bandial said the court would not suspend the orders of the high court and the Election Commission.

He said the court respected constitutional institutions and would look at every aspect of the matter. Problems and complaints had emerged in 90 polling stations, he added.

The PTI counsel said the Election Commission ordered re-polling over violence, fighting and clashes.

He said the Election Commission had issued notices to the candidates to verify the results of 23 polling stations on which Justice Qazi Amin said there was violence at the polling stations and it was the responsibility of the administration to control it.

The lawyer replied that the District Returning Officer (DRO) had not made any allegation against the civil administration in its report.

On this, Justice Umar Ata Bandial said many things had been pointed out in the decision of the Election Commission.

According to the decision of the Election Commission, the absence of police led to violence at some polling stations, he added.

The PTI lawyer argued that the ECP had ordered re-polling by a short decision while the short judgment was given only by the higher courts.

Justices Qazi Amin remarked that short orders given by high courts or Supreme Court, the Chief Election Commissioner was not a judge.

Justice Mazahar Ali Naqvi said short order was given by the higher judiciary, it was a practice and not written in the law.

PTI lawyer Shehzad Shaukat argued that the Election Commission was in a hurry to announce a brief decision on re-election in the entire constituency on March 4.

Justice Mazahar Ali Naqvi questioned whether the violent videos could have been submitted to the Election Commission.

He asked how did it come to be known that the videos presented before the ECP were to the same constituency, who made the videos?  Did the Election Commission decide on the basis of video and WhatsApp?

He said this video culture should end.

Justice Qazi Amin remarked that democracy could not flourish in the shadow of guns by candidates on election day. He observed that there had been violence at polling stations during the by-elections and that it was the responsibility of the administration to control it.

The court adjourned the hearing till March 19 and directed the Secretary Election Commission to submit details of the expenses accrued in holding elections in one constituency for the National Assembly. The court also sought geo-fencing reports of 20 affected polling stations.