ECP response sought to Tehreek-i-Insaf plea for judicial supervision of polls
PESHAWAR: A Peshawar High Court bench on Monday directed the Election Commission of Pakistan to respond to a Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf petition that sought orders for the holding of the upcoming elections in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa through judicial officers under the supervision of the judiciary.
Fixing Dec 18 for next hearing into the petition filed by spokesperson for the PTI and senior lawyer Mohammad Muazzam Butt, Justice Shakeel Ahmad and Justice Wiqar Ahmad gave the ECP a fortnight to file that response.
The petitioner requested the court to ask the ECP as well as the province’s caretaker government and governor not to interfere in the electoral process for next polls.
He contended that the court should declare that the “enforcement of fundamental rights of citizens should be ensured and for the true spirit of democracy, the citizens be allowed to freely choose their representatives through the election process conducted honestly, fairly and in accordance with the law and that corrupt practices be guarded against.”
PHC fixes hearing into petition for Dec 18
The petitioner appeared in person, whereas advocate general Aamir Javed represented the provincial government.
The petitioner said for fair elections in the province, the entire electoral process should be performed under the watch and supervision of the judiciary, so the process should be directed to be conducted through judicial officers in line with the mechanism provided by the Elections Act, 2017, and rules made under it.
The petitioner said that the Supreme Court had declared that the ECP and the president of Pakistan had not fulfilled their constitutional responsibility by not giving a date for the general elections.
He added that as after the indulgence of the apex the ECP announced on Nov 3 that general elections for the National Assembly and four provincial assemblies would be held on Feb 8, 2024, therefore it would be appropriate to hold polls under supervision of the judiciary.
He contended that under Article 218(3) of the Constitution, it was the duty of the ECP to make such arrangements as were necessary to ensure that the elections are conducted honestly, justly and in accordance with the law.
Mr Butt, who is also central leader of the Insaf Lawyers Forum, claimed that the provincial caretaker government couldn’t be trusted for the “honest governance of the election process” as it was acting in consultation with a security agency in disregard to the principle laid down by the Supreme Court in the case of Mohammad Asghar Khan versus Mirza Aslam Baig.
He pointed out that under the law, the ECP in consultation with the chief justice of the concerned high court could appoint returning officers and assistant returning officers, who may take all necessary acts for effective conduct of the polls.
The petitioner claimed that while the election process had already been initiated and other political parties were permitted to hold gatherings and demonstrations, the provincial government in every tehsil and district in the province had restrained the PTI leaders and workers from holding any party meeting.
He explained the background of the issue, including the appointment of the caretaker chief minister on Nov 12 by the provincial governor after the death of the then incumbent, Mohammad Azam Khan, and said former chief minister Mahmood Khan, who had now made his own party by the name of the PTI-Parliamentarians, was consulted on the matter in disregard to the Constitution.
He argued that for strengthening democracy, it was mandatory to hold free and transparent polls, while Article 218 of the Constitution was also meant for the same point.
When the bench wondered why the Peshawar Press Club and Khyber Union of Journalists were made respondents in the petition, Mr Butt replied that the media was the “source to keep an eye” on elections to ensure their freeness and fairness.
Published in Dawn, November 28th, 2023