ISLAMABAD – The Punjab elections were delayed, and the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) petitioned the Supreme Court on constitutional grounds.
The petition was submitted jointly by PTI leaders Asad Umar and Mian Mahmoodur Rashid, as well as the speakers of the Punjab Assembly and the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Legislature, Mushtaq Ahmad Ghani and Mohammad Sibtain Khan. They have named the Pakistan Election Commission, the federal government, the governments of Punjab and KP, as well as others, as respondents in the complaint.
The change comes only days after the electoral commission pushed back the Punjab polls from their initial April 30 date to October 8 because to security and funding concerns.
According to the ruling, the ECP “hereby withdraws the election programme […] and a revised schedule will be published in due course with polling day on October 8” in accordance with the authority granted to it by Article 218(3) read with Section 58 and Section 8(c) of the Elections Act, 2017.
The Punjab and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa elections must be conducted within the 90-day window allowed by the Constitution, the Supreme Court declared on March 1. After the directive, President Arif Alvi and the ECP agreed to conduct elections in Punjab on April 30; however, KP Governor Ghulam Ali had set a date for polls in the province of May 28.
According to the ECP’s ruling, it met with officials from the interior and finance ministries on March 9 to discuss holding elections in light of the top court’s instructions.
In the aforementioned meeting, the Special Secretary of the Interior informed the Commission that “free, fair, and peaceful elections are not possible due to the deteriorating law and order situation, charged political environment, serious threat to the political leaders/politicians; which actually extends to not just the polling day but in the entire run-up period of the election campaign and this will also expose the public as well as the leaders to heightened risk of terrorism”
It stated that the secretary of finance briefed the commission that “due to the lack of funds and financial crunch, the country is facing an unprecedented economic crisis and it was under pressure from International Monetary Fund (IMF) programme which has set targets for maintenance of fiscal discipline and deficit, and it would be difficult for Government to release funds now for General Elections to the Provincial Assemblies of Punjab, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and later for Generic Elections.”
“The Commission was told by the Secretary of Finance that he would receive orders from the Federal Government. According to the Federal Government, it would be very difficult to provide cash for the current elections and extra monies for the staggered elections owing to the country’s dire economic circumstances, according to the ECP directive.
The PTI speakers and leaders asked the top court to annul the ECP ruling in their appeal. They claimed that by postponing the elections, the electoral authority had transgressed both the court’s order and the constitution.