LAHORE: Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) Chairman Imran Khan on Wednesday suspended the court arrest drive of the party after the Supreme Court ordered general elections in Punjab and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa within 90 days of the dissolution of the assemblies.
In a tweet, the former premier welcomed the judgement of the apex court, saying: “It was responsibility of SC to uphold Constitution & they have valiantly done that through their judgement today”. He said the ruling was an assertion of the rule of law in Pakistan.
“We are suspending our Jail Bharo movement & moving forward with election campaigns in KP & Punjab,” he concluded.
The court arrest movement was launched on Feb 22 by Imran Khan-led party against the violation of fundamental rights and worsening economic situation. The movement began in Lahore where Shah Mahmood Qureshi, Asad Umar, Azam Swati and other PTI leaders voluntarily surrendered themselves before the authorities. The drive was later expanded to other cities, including Rawalpindi, Gujranwala and Peshawar.
Earlier in the day, the apex court directed the authorities concerned to hold the general elections in Punjab and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa within 90 days of the dissolution of the assemblies.
A five-member bench, headed by Chief Justice Umar Ata Bandial and comprising Justice Munib Akhtar, Justice Muhammad Ali Mazhar, Justice Mansoor Ali Shah and Justice Jamal Mandokhail, announced the verdict on the suo motu notice with a split decision of 3-2. Justice Shah and Justice Mandokhail wrote dissenting notes as they raised objections to the very admissibility of the case.
Previously, the case was being heard by the nine-member bench but it split on Monday into a five-judge bench after four judges – Justice Ijazul Ahsan, Justice Syed Mazahar Ali Akbar Naqvi, Justice Yahyah Afridi and Justice Athar Minallah – recused themselves from hearing the case.
The assemblies were dissolved by the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) in January to seek fresh elections in the provinces. After the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) and governors of both provinces failed to give a date for the elections, President Arif Alvi unilaterally announced that elections would be held in Punjab and KP on April 9 as time was running out.
The apex court declared the president’s move to unilaterally announce date for elections in KP null and void, saying the provincial assembly was dissolved by Governor Ghulam Ali Khan and he was responsible for giving the date. However, the top court upheld the president’s notification of elections in Punjab as the provincial assembly was dissolved there without the consent of the governor.
If it was impossible to hold elections in Punjab on April 9, the president and the ECP should change the schedule with consultation, ruled the top court. It said the KP governor deviated from his constitutional responsiblity by not annoucing a date for the elections. The apex court directed the governor to announce a date for elections as soon as possible.
It ruled that Section 57 of the Election Act 217 empowered the president to announce a date for elections if the assembly was not dissolved by the governor. It said the polls should be held within constitutional timeframe. The apex court has also directed the federal and provincial institutions to assist the ECP in the election process.