SC reserves verdict in Punjab, KP polls delay case 

SC reserves verdict in Punjab, KP polls delay case 

Islamabad (Web Desk): The Supreme Court (SC) on Monday reserved the verdict on Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf’s (PTI) petition against the Election Commission of Pakistan's (ECP) decision regarding the delay in the elections in Punjab and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KP).

A three-member SC bench headed by Chief Justice of Pakistan (CJP) Umar Ata Bandial, and comprising Justice Ijazul Ahsan and Justice Munib Akhtar reserved the judgment after hearing all the parties, including the lawyers of the ruling coalition, the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI), the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) and others.

Attorney General for Pakistan (AGP) Mansoor Awan, ECP lawyers Irfan Qadir and Sajeel Swati, PTI lawyer Ali Zafar, Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) counsel Farooq H. Naek were present in the courtroom as the hearing commenced today.

The court said that it will issue the verdict on Tuesday, but the time would be announced later.
While directing the AGP, the CJP said that the government and PTI should find a solution through political dialogue.

CJP Bandial urged to hold a political dialogue to reach consensus for the Pakistani nation’s sake.

"The constitution is clear about when elections should be held," the CJP maintained.

As the proceedings commenced, Farooq H Naek came to the rostrum and was asked by CJP Bandial if the PPP had concluded its boycott against the court hearings, to which the lawyer stated that the party had not boycotted the hearing.

Justice Muneeb Akhtar questioned how the party could boycott the hearing and simultaneously attend it. He continued that for the past two days, the media was reporting that political parties had no confidence on the bench.

“How can you present your arguments if you don’t have confidence in us?” he asked, adding that the PPP counsel would only be heard if he withdrew the statement issued by the coalition leaders last week.

He also expressed displeasure at the language of the statement.

The CJP asked Naek if he wanted to become a part of the proceedings, to which Naek said yes and reiterated that the PPP did not boycott the hearing.

He said that the media had reported otherwise, whereas Naek stated that his party had reservations about the maintainability of the PTI petition.

Justice Bandial still maintained that Naek confirmed in writing that he had not boycotted the hearing.

The CJP then asked the AGP about the directions he had received. Awan replied that the incumbent government could not boycott the proceedings.

AGP Awan, presenting his arguments, highlighted that the PTI petition was based on the SC’s March 1 verdict, in which the apex court had instructed the president to select a date for elections in Punjab and the governor to pick a date for polls in KP.

“But the KP governor never selected a date until the petition was filed,” he pointed out.

“The question is how can the ECP give the date of Oct 8 for polls,” the CJP said here. “The law gives no one the authority to delay elections. Only the court can delay the date for polls.

“Even in 1988, elections were postponed on the orders of the court,” he recalled, adding that court orders were issued on the basis of “ground realities”.

“The order you are mentioning here [SC’s March 1 verdict] has already been executed,” the CJP pointed out.

Justice Ijazul Ahsan observed that the actual matter under consideration was the ECP’s decision to postpone elections, noting that the commission was bound to follow the court orders.

AGP Awan recalled that during the first round of the hearings, the SC’s suo motu proceedings on elections in Punjab and KP, a nine-member bench had conducted the proceedings.

"On Feb 21, we received the order of the court which included dissenting notes from two judges. The two judges had dismissed the case in the first hearing," he said.

The CJP interjected and said that only one judge had dismissed the proceedings.“Justice Athar Minallah had not mentioned rejecting the request in his dissenting note,” he said.

“Justice Yahya Afridi had agreed with Justice Minallah in his note,” the AGP argued to which Justice Bandial stated that the court had understood Awan’s stance.

Justice Akhtar recalled that on February 27, a nine-member bench had forwarded the matter to the CJP for the reconstitution of the bench with Justice Ahsan adding that when the bench was reconstituted it consisted of five judges.

The AGP agreed to the judge’s observation.

Meanwhile, the CJP clarified that he was not obligated to select the previous members and pointed out that the order the AGP was referring to was a minority judgement.

For his part, the AGP argued that an order of the court was not issued on March 1 to which Justice Bandial asked if Awan believed that a five-member bench was never constituted.

During the hearing, the court also directed the defence secretary to submit a classified report to explain reasons why the armed forces are not available to perform security duties in general elections of provincial assemblies.

CJPBandial also asked Defence Secretary to consider other forces like the Pakistan Air Force, Navy and Rangers if the armed forces were not available.

"These have the same respect as the Pakistan Army," the CJP said. He also asked whether reserved army officials could be called for elections duty.

Earlier, the defence secretary requested to allow in-camera briefing on this matter.

The bench, however, asked him to submit a written answer in a sealed envelope first.

The court reassured him that the envelope would be returned as it was after the bench went through it.

Justice Ahsan said the court understood sensitive matters and did not want them to be public.

He stated that the court did not want to create issues for national security officials or the public.

Earlier, the government submitted a statement through the AGP in SC, seeking the PTI's petition in the light of what it interpreted as a “4-3” order issued by the top court on March 1.

The SC, had in a 3-2 verdict, ruled on March 1 that elections in Punjab and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KP), both of which have been under caretaker governments since the provincial assemblies were dissolved in January, should be held within 90 days.

The petition stated that the proceedings in the instant petition may kindly be postponed in light of the order passed by Justice Qazi Faez Isa, postponing all the proceedings in suo motu matters.

During the previous hearing, AGP Awan, as well as the Pakistan Bar Council (PBC), had requested the court to constitute a full court for hearing the case.

But the three-member bench rejected the government's request.

The apex court had summoned the secretary of finance and secretary of defence for today.

On Friday, court gave time to the AGP to submit a reply to the questions put to him on the financial and security issues raised by the ECP.