Election date suo moto: SC to announce reserved verdict today

ISLAMABAD (Agencies): The Supreme Court of Pakistan has reserved its verdict in its suo moto notice on delay in holding of elections in Punjab and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa.
A five-member bench of the apex court headed by Chief Justice of Pakistan Justice Umar Ata Bandial and comprised Justice Syed Mansoor Ali Shah, Justice Muneeb Akhtar, Justice Jamal Khan Mandokhail and Justice Muhammad Ali Mazhar conducted hearing of the suo moto notice and the petitions of the Speakers of the Punjab and the KP assemblies and the Islamabad High Court Bar Association and reserved the decision which would be announced on Wednesday (today).
During the hearing, Salman Akram Raja, representing the President, told that regarding the election date for the KP Assembly the President should have not announced the date, adding that but he could give date for the elections of the Punjab assembly as the Governor was not giving date. Justice Mazhar inquired that whether the President has withdrawn the notification with respect to the date for KP Assembly’s elections. Salman said he would do so.
Justice Jamal Khan Mandokhail asked that is the President order with regard to the Punjab Assembly not in violation of the Lahore High Court judgment, which still holds the field as no one has challenged. The LHC single bench had ordered the ECP to give date for elections after holding consultation with the Punjab Governor. Salman replied that as the governor was not announcing the date therefore the President gave the date. Time is essence and time is running out, he said and added that 90 days’ time-frame needed to be taken seriously.
Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP)’s representative Sajeel Sheryar Swati informed the bench that the President for the general elections of 2013 and 2018 gave dates on the advice of the Prime Minister. He said they have discussed the matter with the Punjab Governor but he said as he has not dissolved the assembly therefore can’t give date.
Advocate General Punjab Shan Gul contended that the President does not have power to announce date for the elections of Punjab Assembly, adding that Section 57(1) of the Election Act, 2917 runs contrary to the Article 112 (2) of the constitution. He informed that the PTI government before the dissolution of the provincial assembly created new four Divisions and six Districts. The judgment of the LHC reversed the PTI government’s decision, adding now the delimitation have to take place in these Divisions and the Districts.
All the counsels of the political parties said that they are ready for the elections and what that the constitutional requirement should be met, but the country is facing the financial crisis and there is also security issue, while the Census would be published in April. They also said that the tenure of National Assembly and the Provincial Assemblies of Sindh and Balochistan will end in October, so why not wait for some more months.
In view of their submission Justice Mansoor suggested that why not the PTI and PDM show flexibility and decide about the elections amicably. The judge therefore had asked the counsels to seek instruction from their leadership. However, Fawad Chaudhry, former information minister of PTI, said if once the dates for elections is extended then it will become tradition. The chief justice then heard the counsel and reserved the judgment.
Earlier, PPPP counsel Farooq H Naek contended that the President has to act on the advice of the Prime Minister, therefore the President order to give dates is nullity in the eyes of the constitution. The President before deciding about the date should have wrote letter to the Prime Minister, but he invoked the discretion under Article 48 without the PM advice.