PTI moves Supreme Court against delay in Punjab elections
'ECP has committed a hat-trick of blatant constitutional violations,' says petition
ISLAMABAD (Dunya News) – Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) filed a constitutional petition in the Supreme Court against delay in elections in Punjab.
PTI leaders Asad Umar and Mian Mahmoodur Rashid, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Assembly Speaker Mushtaq Ahmad Ghani and Punjab Assembly Speaker Mohammad Sibtain Khan have filed the joint petition. They have made Election Commission of Pakistan, federal government, Punjab and KP governments and others respondents in the case.
The development comes days after the electoral body postponed the Punjab elections, originally scheduled for April 30, till Oct 8, citing security and financial constraints.
In the order, the ECP said that in exercise of the powers conferred upon it by Article 218(3) read with Section 58 and Section 8(c) of the Elections Act, 2017, the commission “hereby withdraws the election programme […] and fresh schedule will be issued in due course of time with poll date on October 8”.
On March 1, the apex court had ruled that the elections in the Punjab and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa must be held within the stipulated period of 90 days under the Constitution. Following the order, the ECP and President Arif Alvi mutually decided to hold elections on April 30 in Punjab while KP Governor Ghulam Ali had announced May 28 as a date for elections in the province.
The ECP, in its order, said it held meetings with the interior and finance ministries’ representatives on March 9 regarding conducting elections in light of the orders of the top court.
“Special Secretary Interior during the above said meeting briefed the Commission that free, fair and peaceful elections are not possible due to deteriorating law and order situation, charged political environment, serious threat to the political leaders/politicians; which actually extends to not just the poll 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,” reads the ECP order.
It said the secretary finance briefed that the commission that “due to the paucity of funds and financial crunch, the country is facing an unprecedented economic crisis and it was under compulsion by International Monitory Fund (IMF) program 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 General Elections to National Assembly, Provincial Assemblies of Sindh and Balochistan”.
“Secretary Finance informed the Commission that he will get instructions from the Federal Government. The Federal Government has conveyed that due to critical economic situation of the country it will be very difficult to Provide funds for the elections at the moment and additional funds for the staggered elections,” read the ECP order.
In its petition, the PTI leaders and speakers pleaded the apex court to declare the ECP order null and void. They argued that the electoral body violated the constitutional mandate and court ruling by delaying the polls.
PTI Petition by Mehar Mahmood Idrees on Scribd
“That however in defiance and subversion of the Constitution and violation of the judgement of the Supreme Court, ECP has unilaterally, vide the impugned order dated 22.03.2023, changed the date of holding of elections in the Punjab Assembly and decided that the elections will be held on 08.10.2023.
“That with due respect to ECP, the order dated 22.03.2023 passed by ECP, announcing the date of elections to the Punjab Assembly as 08.10.2023, is in violation of the Constitution as well as the judgement of the Hon’ble Supreme Court of Pakistan dated 01.03.2023. By passing this order 22.03.2023, ECP has committed a hat-trick of blatant constitutional violations (i) ECP has subverted and amended the Constitution by increasing the period for holding the elections from 90 days to 267 (ii) Overruled/set aside the judgement of the Supreme Court dated 01.03.2023 (iii) Replaced the constitutionally announcement of the date of elections (30.04.2023) by the President of Pakistan with its own arbitrarily set date of 08.10.2023. ECP’s order dated 22-03-2023 is hence illegal, ultra vires the Constitution, null and void and liable to be set aside accordingly,” reads the petition.
They asked the court to issue an order for holding elections on April 30 in Punjab.