CJP says ECP's decision to postpone Punjab polls 'taken in haste'

CJP says ECP's decision to postpone Punjab polls 'taken in haste'

Islamabad (Web Desk): Chief Justice of Pakistan (CJP) said the decision to postpone polls in Punjab was written in haste by the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP).

The CJP passed the remarks during the hearing after the Supreme Court (SC) on Tuesday resumed hearing on the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf's (PTI) petition against the Election Commission of Pakistan's (ECP) decision regarding the delay in Punjab and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KP) elections.

A five-member larger bench, headed by CJP Umar Ata Bandial and comprising Justice Ijazul Ahsan, Justice Munib Akhtar, Justice Aminuddin Khan and Justice Jamal Khan Mandokhail is hearing the case.

PTI lawyer Barrister Ali Zafar, Attorney General of Pakistan (AGP) Mansoor Awan, Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) lawyer Farooq H. Naek and others were present during the hearing today.

As proceedings commenced, AGP Usman Awan raised questions over the maintainability of the PTI's present petition saying that elections matters should be referred to the Lahore High Court (LHC) after issuance of two judges' detailed opinion wherein they held that suo motu regarding the announcement of polling date is dismissed by 3 to 4.

He said that the LHC  had not given the president the authority to announce the election date.

The AGP also requested the court to constitute a full bench to preside over the case.
Upon this, CJP Bandial remarked that the present case is a completely different matter wherein the apex court is examining whether the ECP had the authority to postpone the election date.

CJ Bandial observed that the "question before the court is a simple one, can the ECP postpone the election date or not".

"If it has the authority to do so, the proceedings will end right there," he said.

The recently appointed AGP argued before the court that two SC judges had given their verdict on the matter earlier.

However, CJ Bandial held that the opinion expressed by the two judges is not relevant in this matter.

"If the verdict was 3-4, then such orders do not exist that were breached," responded AGP Awan.

"In fact, if there were no court orders, then the president had no authority to give an election date even," he added urging the court to first settle the issue of SC's March 1 orders.

CJ Bandial observed that the AGP's arguments were based on a "technical point" while the bench was seeing the question raised in the application.

He also urged the AGP to refrain from "complicating" the matter by asking such questions which would delay the proceedings.

The CJ nonetheless asked Awan to raise these points in his arguments saying that the court would consider them.

Justice Mandokhail remarked that the court would examine how the ECP was empowered to extend the election date.

PPP lawyer Farooq H Naek requested political parties be made parties to the case, arguing that they were also "stakeholders" in the issue at hand.

Meanwhile, the ruling alliance decided to become a party in the case.

The Pakistan Muslim League Nawaz (PML-N), PPP and Jamiat Ulema-e-Islam-Fazl (JUI-F) filed the pleas in the SC to become a party, and present their stance.

On Monday, the SC took up the petition for hearing and issued notices to the ECP, KP governor and federal government, directing them to submit their response.