ISLAMABAD: The crucial issue of the delayed elections in Punjab and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa was heard by a nine-member Supreme Court (SC) panel on Thursday.
The court, presided by by Chief Justice Umar Ata Bandial, began the hearing to ascertain who was authorised to declare the election date. The judges on the bench are Justices Ijazul Ahsan, Munib Akhtar, Syed Mazahar Ali Akbar Naqvi, Syed Mansoor Ali Shah, Jamal Khan Mandokhail, Yahya Afridi, Athar Minallah, and Muhammad Ali Mazhar.
Chief Judge Umar Ata Bandial said at the opening that the bench will examine three matters that were connected and decide who was in charge of announcing the dates of the elections. He said that it was a significant matter and should be handled in accordance with the Constitution. He said that the supreme court would not permit a breach of the constitution. According to him, next week’s programme had been postponed so that this case might get the attention it deserved. According to him, the judges would consider all parties’ points of view and debate the key points on Friday.
Two Supreme Court justices had earlier informed the CJP in a notice that they had referred a case to him on February 16 and asked for suo motu proceedings. To address the problem of postponed elections, other petitions have also been submitted to the top court. The Punjab governor and the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) have filed appeals with the court, which are now being considered, according to CJP Bandial. The Lahore High Court (LHC) has ordered them to swiftly announce the date of Punjab’s elections.
He stated that a petition on this matter was now being heard by the Peshawar High Court and that the governor of KP had not set a date for elections either.
The governor seems to be making the argument that he lacks the obligation or ability to set the date for the general election since he did not follow the then-chief minister’s suggestion and did not issue an order dissolving the assembly. Even though the election commission has categorically stated (as reported in the public media, both print and electronic), it is fully committed to conducting the said election in accordance with the Constitution, it appears that the commission has also adopted the position that under the Constitution it has no authority to set the date for a general election.
The Chief Justice of Pakistan (CJP) stated: “I am of the opinion that the matters addressed deserve quick study and determination by this court. As well as the relevant portions of the Elections Act, other Constitutional clauses must be taken into account.
The questions pertain, at least in part, to a consideration of Article 17 of the Constitution and the enforcement, among other things, of the fundamental rights of political parties and the voters who make up the electorates in the Punjab and KP provinces to exercise their right to choose representatives to form new assemblies and provincial cabinets. For the two provinces’ governments to operate in conformity with the Constitution, this is required.
The CJP said that in addition to asking for accurate constitutional enforcement, these situations “involve the execution of constitutional responsibilities of high public interest.”