Punjab, KP elections: ECP says ready to hold elections if provided funds, security

Amid the efforts to curb the “unbridled powers” of the top judge by the Shehbaz-led government, the Supreme Court resumed the hearing on PTI’s plea concerning the Election Commission of Pakistan’s order to delay polls in Punjab and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KP), citing the law and order situation.

The Supreme Court’s (SC) five-member bench, headed by CJP Bandial and comprising Justice Ijazul Ahsan, Justice Munib Akhtar, Justice Aminuddin Khan, and Justice Jamal Khan Mandokhail heard the petition.

Justice Ahsan asked the ECP’s lawyer whether the elections could be held on April 30 if they were provided funds and security.

The counsel replied that they can hold elections in Punjab if the provision of funds and security are ensured.

Justice Ahsan said the commission should have approached the court if the institutions were not cooperating.

Justice Mandokhail inquired whether the polls could be delayed for a decade if the ECP is not satisfied with the situation in such a situation.

The commission’s lawyer responded that they would take a ‘realistic decision’.

CJP remarked that they would find a way if the ECP was unable to.

He noted that even in 1988, elections were delayed on the order of the court and went on to add that in 2008, the situation was such that no one objected to the postponement of the elections.

At the offset of the hearing, Justice Jamal Khan Mandokhail said that he wanted to clarify a few things circulating in the media.

He maintained that he abided by his dissenting note and short order and said that the verdict on suo moto on the election was dismissed by 4-3. Hence, the judge said that the suo moto notice over the delay in the election was rejected.

He remarked that only the matters pertaining to rules of the top court was referred to as ‘internal matter’, adding that four judges rejected pleas of PTI.

He said that the order of the polls was not given as per the decision of the majority of judges.

Justice Mandokhail said that the CJP has not issued the order of the court in the case to this date.

He asked how come the ECP issued the election schedule when there was no order from the court.

The court barred Irfan Qadir from representing the ECP due to some legalities but allowed Sajeel Swati to represent the electoral body.

The counsel said that the commission implemented the top court’s March 1 decision.

He said that under Article 224, the elections must be held within 90 days however the atmosphere for it must be conducive too.

Swati said that the order of the case was given by 3-2, adding that they implemented the decision as per paragraph 14 and introductory para.

Justice Mandokhail asked the counsel if he had read the short order.

The lawyer replied that there was a possibility that they misunderstood it.

Justice Munib Akhtar said that the dissenting notes do not mention that the verdict was passed by 4-3.

He said that the difference of opinion is the right of a jurist but the minority cannot claim itself to be a majority under any law.

Earlier on Tuesday, the CJP remarked that democracy cannot function without the rule of law, adding that the rise in political temperature will only increase problems.

CJP Bandial welcomed the new Attorney General of Pakistan (AGP) Usman Awan in the court and said that he expected to get the best assistance from him.

The top judge categorically said that they did not want to prolong the proceedings.

He stated that the simple question was whether the election commission can advance the election date or not.

CJP said that the matter would be over if it is the discretion of the electoral watchdog.

He added that the opinion of two judges in the top court’s verdict in suo moto elections case was irrelevant in the matter under adjudication.

AGP Awan raised questions over the maintainability of the PTI’s petition.

He argued that matters related to the elections should be referred to the Lahore High Court (LHC) citing dissenting notes of two apex court judges who opined that the suo moto in Punjab and KP elections case was dismissed by 4-3.

Referring to this judgement, AGP Awan maintained that the court verdict on the date of the election did not exist if the verdict was passed by four-three majority.

He went on to say that the president could not give date for elections because there was no court order. AGP emphasized that the court take up the matter pertaining to verdict in suo moto case first.

However, CJP Bandial said that the question in the ongoing case was not about the judgement but about the ECP’s power.

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