SC expresses anger as 90-day time for elections in Punjab, KP running out

F.P. Report

ISLAMABAD : The Supreme Court has remarked it is unable to understand what is being done by the Election Commission of Pakistan to hold elections in Punjab and Khyber Pakhunkhwas as the 90-day time period is running out.

In January, the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) dissolved the two provincial assemblies and the ECP, as per the Election Act 2017 and Constitution, is supposed to hold elections within 90 days of the dissolution. But uncertainty continues to hang on elections as the ECP and governors of the provinces are not announcing a date for elections. Several cases are being heard by the Lahore High Court (LHC), the Peshawar High Court (PHC) and the top court against the ECP for not announcing a schedule for elections in the provinces.

During the hearing of a case regarding transfer of Lahore CCPO Ghulam Mahmood Dogar, Justice Munib Akhtar said the sole responsibility of the ECP was to hold elections but it was seeking more time to perform its duty. 

At one point, the Islamabad High Court Bar Association pleaded the top court to issue an order on its petition seeking intervention for the electoral schedule. However, Justice Ijazul Ahsan rejected the request, saying a two-member bench had already sent the matter to Chief Justice Umar Ata Bandial. He added that it was the prerogative of the chief justice to form a bench to hear the case.

A day earlier, Chief Election Commissioner (CEC) Sikandar Sultan Raja had told the top court that he was being prevented from exercising his powers and fulfilling constitutional requirements for holding transparent elections. He also explained the impediments to holding elections when Justice Ijazul Ahsan remarked that elections, as per the Constitution, should be held within 90 days of the dissolution of the assemblies.

Justice Ahsan remarked it was a violation of the Constitution if elections were not held in 90 days, adding that the ECP was responsible for holding transparent elections.

The chief election commissioner lamented that the army had excused itself from providing security while judiciary was not ready to provide returning officers (ROs). “When funds were sought for elections, we were declined,” he said. Mr Raja also highlighted that it would be a violation of the Constitution if election date was announced by the ECP chief.