Supreme Court postpones NA-75 Daska by-election

ISLAMABAD: The Supreme Court of Pakistan on Thursday postponed the National Assembly by-election for NA-75 in Daska which was earlier supposed to be held on April 10.

The Supreme Court of Pakistan heard a petition filed by the PTI’s candidate from NA-75, Asjad Ali Malhi, in which he requested to suspend the ECP’s Feb 25 decision to hold a fresh by-election in NA-75.

The decision was taken during a hearing. The bench said the court needed more time to decide the case. “At the moment, we are hearing Salman Akram Raja’s [the PML-N candidate’s lawyer} arguments. We have to hear [the arguments of] other parties to the case apart from Nosheen Ahmed [PML-N candidate],” said the court.

“The decision of the ECP to hold re-polling stands,” said Justice Umar Ata Bandial. “For the moment, we are postponing the decision to hold it on April 10.”

Justice Umar Ata Bandial remarked that two ‘heavy weights’ were contesting in NA-75. We cannot leave the nation at the mercy of these ‘heavy weights’, he added.

The apex court adjourned proceedings of the case for an unspecified period.

Previously, the Supreme Court of Pakistan (SCP) rejected the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) plea to declare the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP)’s the decision regarding re-polling in the NA-75 Daska constituency as ‘illegal’.

The decision was announced by a three-member bench, headed by Justice Umar Ata Bandial.

During the proceedings, a report was submitted by the electoral body stating that on the day of by-polls, Chief Election Commissioner (CEC) had called the chief secretary, IGP several times but there was no response.

The PTI’s lawyer said that his client has no issue with re-elections at 20 polling stations and requested the apex court to nullify the ECP’s order until the hearing of the case in the top court.

Justice Bandial said that the electoral body had ordered re-election after noticing code of conduct violations.

“ECP took its decision on the basis of a report which stated that 20 presiding officers had gone missing after the polling concluded as well as the violence witnessed in Daska on polling day,” he remarked.

Justice Bandial wondered that “The presiding officers switched their phones off and disappeared together. All the disappearing presiding officers suddenly appeared together in the morning. Did all the presiding officers disappear and go for breakfast?”

However, Justice Bandial said that declaring null and void was an administrative decision and that such decisions need to be taken “immediately”. “There was no reason to declare the order illegal,” he said adding that the bench will deliberate on what to do next in the upcoming hearing.

Later, the court adjourned the hearing of the case until next week.

Previously, the Supreme Court of Pakistan said that the top court could not dismiss the Election Commission of Pakistan’s (ECP) ruling on holding re-election in the NA-75 (Daska) constituency.

Justice Bandial stated that “The Supreme Court respects the ECP,” adding that the bench now only has to decide whether polling ought to be held in the complete constituency or the 20 polling stations of NA-75 that were mired in controversy.

He added that the court “respected constitutional institutions” and would look at every aspect of the matter.

Justice Bandial said that the 2018 general elections were held peacefully because of the posting of Rangers. “They were not posted in NA-75 (Daska) which was a mistake by the Election Commission.”

Meanwhile, the lawyer for PTI candidate Ali Asjad Malhi told the court that Daska has 360 polling stations and more than 400,000 registered voters in the constituency. He added that PML-N candidate Nausheen Iftikhar had complained to the ECP that they had not received the results from 23 polling stations.

To this, Justice Bandial asked whether the PTI candidate received the results for the remaining 340 polling stations. The PTI lawyer responded saying that they were told by the returning officer that the results of 14 constituencies were missing.

“The ECP gave the order for repolling [in all polling stations] on the basis of violence [in the constituency],” said PTI lawyer Shahzad Shaukat. At this point, Justice Qazi Muhammad Ameen, a member of the bench, remarked that it was the administration’s responsibility to stop violence at polling stations.

The ECP lawyer told the judges that the Commission had changed the date for the re-election as the interior ministry had warned that the situation remains tense in Daska.

This comes as Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) challenged the Election Commission of Pakistan’s (ECP) decision of re-polling at all polling stations in the NA-75 Daska in the Supreme Court (SC) on March 5. The petition has been moved by a PTI candidate from Daska Ali Asjad Malhi. The PTI candidate has pleaded with the court to nullify the ECP’s decision of re-polling in NA-75.

Raja Furqan Ahmed

Raja Furqan Ahmed is the News Editor of The Pakistan Daily.

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