Islamabad, April 4
Pakistan’s federal Cabinet on Tuesday rejected the Supreme Court’s “unanimous verdict” on advancing the elections in Punjab and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa provinces which were earlier postponed by the election commission.
The development came during the Cabinet’s meeting chaired by Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif after a three-member bench headed by Chief Justice Umar Ata Bandial announced the apex court’s verdict on the matter which it had reserved on Monday, Geo News reported.
The bench, also comprised Justice Ijaz Ul Ahsan and Justice Munib Akhtar, announced the verdict on a plea filed by the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) party led by former prime minister Imran Khan and declared the Election Commission of Pakistan’s (ECP) decision to postpone polls in Punjab and KP from April 30 to October 8 as “null and void”.
The Supreme Court in its verdict said the ECP’s order dated March 22 was declared to be unconstitutional, without lawful authority or jurisdiction.
“The Supreme Court’s decision is a minority verdict, which is why the Cabinet rejects it,” the report quoted a source in the federal Cabinet as saying.
The top court’s decision, as per the source, is not enforceable.
The government would raise its voice in the parliament regarding the verdict, the source added.
Commenting on the SC decision, Pakistan Muslim League Nawaz (PML-N) Senior Vice-President and Chief Organiser Maryam Nawaz Sharif tweeted that the verdict was the last blow of the conspiracy which began by “rewriting the Constitution and presenting the Punjab government on a plate” to the bench’s blue-eyed boy, Khan.
Maryam termed the three-member bench as “Khan’s facilitators” and said that this was done so he could be reselected under their presence and supervision.
“This bench has taken responsibility for the work done by [Lt Gen] Faiz [Hamid], [ex-CJP Asif Saeed] Khosa, and Saqib Nisar in 2018. A majority of the Supreme Court revolted against this appalling and brazen facilitation and one-man show,” the PML-N scion tweeted.
She stressed that it was now time for the parliament to stop this facilitation using its “constitutional and legal hands”.
Maryam further added that it was not enough for the federal Cabinet to reject the verdict and that those who tried to impose the “favourite” by defying the Constitution and law must be brought to the rostrum.
The Supreme Court on Tuesday termed as “unconstitutional” the election commission’s decision to postpone polls in the Punjab province till October 8 and fixed May 14 as the date for polls in the politically crucial Punjab province.
On March 22, the ECP delayed assembly polls in the politically crucial Punjab province by more than five months, citing the deteriorating security situation in the cash-starved country, a move criticised by Khan’s PTI.
The court remarked that the ECP’s order wasted 13 days, saying that the electoral body made an unconstitutional decision by shifting the date for the polls to October 8.
The verdict says the last date for submitting appeals against the returning officer’s decision is April 10 and the Election Tribunal will announce the decision on the appeals on April 17.
“Elections in Punjab and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa should be transparent, impartial and as per the law,” said the verdict.
“The Punjab government should give a security plan to the Election Commission,” said the top court’s verdict. It added that Punjab’s interim cabinet and chief secretary should report to the ECP on the electoral staff by April 10.
The verdict also directed the caretaker government to assist and provide resources to the electoral body for elections in Punjab.
Earlier in the day, the Ministry of Defence, as per the apex court’s directives, had submitted its report through Attorney General Mansoor Awan detailing the availability of security personnel for election duties.
After analysing the report, the Supreme Court announced its verdict and reinstated the previous schedule with amendments.
The apex court ordered returning officers to accept nomination papers until April 10 and publish the candidates’ list by April 19. The ruling further held that free and fair elections must be ensured on the new poll date.
The assembly in the Punjab province was dissolved on January 14 by the erstwhile PTI government.
The hearings in the case, which lasted over a week, witnessed high drama after two judges of the original five-member bench — Justices Jamal Khan Mandokhail and Aminuddin Khan — recused themselves from hearing the case.
Thereafter, the chief justice constituted a bench comprising himself, Justice Ahsan and Justice Akhtar to proceed with the PTI petition.
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