ISLAMABAD, (MANEND NEWS): The Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) filed a review petition on Wednesday against the Supreme Court’s (SC) month-old order fixing May 14 as the date for Punjab polls.
In the petition, the electoral watchdog maintained that changing the election programme was the solitary domain of the ECP under section 58 of the Elections Act, 2017.
Under no provision of the Constitution or the law could the court have taken such an exercise upon itself to fix a poll date, the electoral watchdog maintained in its plea.
The commission further stated that “appointing of date or changing it, is an executive exercise, and certainly not a judicial exercise”.
“The ECP appears to simply have no choice, given the strict timeline to meet for the elections, but to accept as a fate accompli, a security plan which may be compromising the integrity, honesty and fairness of the elections,” the petition added.
The electoral watchdog in its petition also stressed on a “strong and empowered commission”.
The ECP also maintained that the apex court “should have exercised judicial restraint and could have apportioned responsibility to the Commission”.
It also stated that the SC with its April 4 order “has actually divested the powers of the Commission to itself and made the Commission virtually toothless” and “disregarded its constitutional jurisdiction”.
“It is not suggested that article 254 of the Constitution should be used to stultify the constitutional imperative of holding elections within 90 days, but the Hon’ble Court needs keenly to look at the ground realities,” maintained the ECP.
The electoral watchdog further requested the apex court to “accept the instant Review Petition by revisiting, reviewing, reconsidering and recalling its April 4 order”.
Last month, the SC had declared as “unconstitutional” the ECP’s decision to postpone elections in Punjab, in a blow to the government that has been trying to delay the provincial election citing security issues and the economic crisis.
The three-member bench — headed by Chief Justice of Pakistan Umar Ata Bandial and comprising Justice Munib Akhtar and Justice Ijazul Ahsan — also fixed May 14 as the date for the poll in the province.
On March 22, the ECP delayed the provincial assembly election 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 PTI chief Imran Khan.
Since his ouster last April in a no-confidence vote in parliament, Imran has been demanding early elections. Prime Minister Shahbaz Sharif has dismissed the demand and remained stuck to the ruling coalition’s demand of holding elections in one go later this year.
Talks hit deadlock
The move by the ECP comes at a crucial time, as talks between the ruling coalition and the PTI have hit deadlock on the elections date.
Leaders from both sides confirmed that there was a “stalemate” between the two sides on the date for the dissolution of the assemblies and holding of the general elections in the country.
Though the negotiators from the ruling alliance and the PTI failed to develop a consensus on the date for dissolving the National, Sindh and Balochistan assemblies and holding polls, Finance Minister Ishaq Dar said that both sides agreed upon holding general elections on the same day under the caretaker set-up, saying that both sides have agreed to accept poll results as well.
The government officials and the PTI leaders sat across the table after the Supreme Court had intervened in the elections matter after the ECP extended the date for Punjab to October 8 after initially announcing that the polls would be held on April 30.
The apex court later on proposed to the political parties to reach a consensus on when and how to hold elections across the country.