PHC reserves verdict on PTI plea seeking polls under judicial supervision
“We are bound by SC verdict, can’t go against it,” says PHC Chief Justice Mohammad Ibrahim Khan
- Appointment of ROs, DROs within ECP’s mandate: laywer.
- PTI raises concerns over the transparency of Feb 8 polls.
- “We are bound by SC verdict, can’t go against it,” says PHC.
PESHAWAR: The Peshawar High Court (PHC) Monday reserved its verdict on the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf’s (PTI) plea seeking the holding of the upcoming general elections under the judiciary’s supervision.
Two-member PHC bench led by Chief Justice Mohammad Ibrahim Khan and comprising Justice Shakeel Ahmed presided over the hearing.
The development comes after the PTI’s Advocate Muazzam Butt had moved the PHC seeking the holding of upcoming general elections slated for February 8, 2024, under the judiciary’s supervision.
The plea challenged the Election Commission of Pakistan’s (ECP) notification for the appointment of returning officers (ROs) and district returning officers (DROs).
During the hearing, the PTI’s Advocate Butt contended that the polling staff is to be posted two months prior to the elections.
“How will the [ECP] hold transparent polls if [they] haven’t made timely arrangements in this regard,” he questioned,” he said.
Meanwhile, responding to the PTI’s plea against ECP’s notification, PHC Chief Justice Ibrahim said: “We are bound by the SC decision and cannot go against it.”
The chief justice was referring to the Supreme Court’s December 15 verdict wherein the apex court had suspended the Lahore High Court’s (LHC) ruling — in response to a similar petition filed by the PTI — against the ECP’s decision to appoint ROs and DROs from bureaucracy.
On Saturday, a three-member top court bench, led by Chief Justice Qazi Faez Isa directed the ECP to issue the poll schedule and ensure timely elections on the said date.
Following this, the electoral body issued the election schedule on the same day.
During another hearing earlier in the day, the SC — while hearing the ECP’s plea against the Balochistan High Court’s decision to change the delimitations carried out by the polls organising body — suspended the order on delimitation and therefore effectively ruled out any possibility of delay in the polls.
No objections can be raised on the delimitations after the announcement of the schedule for the upcoming general elections, the apex court noted.
During today’s proceedings, PTI’s Butt further highlighted that the electoral body has been directed to consult with the chief justice if the transparency of the polls is in question.
To this, Justice Shakeel said the relevant authority in this regard resides with the National Judicial Policy Committee.
He also questioned as to under which specific circumstances the ECP is to consult the chief justice.
Presenting the ECP’s point of view, the electoral body’s counsel maintained that the appointment of ROs and DROs falls within the top electoral body’s mandate following the apex court’s December 15 verdict.
The issue of mass arrests in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa also came under discussion with Justice Ibrahim lamenting the issuance of an exuberant number of MPO-3 orders in the province.
The judge remarked that 147 MPO-3 orders have been in Peshawar alone and that the DCs of 24 districts have been focused on how to arrest people belonging to one political party.
“Can transparent elections be held under such circumstances? What guarantee is there that the mentality of DCs who have repeatedly issued MPO-3 orders will change?” questioned the PHC chief justice.
To this, the attorney general said that the MPO-3 orders are being issued on the basis of the May 9 riots.
“May 9 has passed, what is the basis of the MPO-3 orders being now?” Justice Ibrahim questioned.
“You are in Islamabad, who will give assurances for here [KP]?” the PHC chief justice said on the ECP’s counsel’s statement that the SC had expressed faith in the electoral body.
At this, the ECP’s counsel said that the petitioner can approach the ECP if he has any objection to any election officer
After hearing arguments from both sides, the court then reserved the verdict which is to be announced later — the date for which hasn’t been announced yet.
Published in Geo, December 18, 2023