Islamabad: The Supreme Court of Pakistan on Tuesday, ordered the government to hold elections in Punjab on May 14 while declaring the Election Commission of Pakistan’s (ECP) decision to delay the assembly elections in two provinces as “unconstitutional.”
The decision related to the postponement of elections in both provinces was reserved yesterday and was pronounced today.
The court’s verdict followed a petition filed by the main opposition Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) party challenging the Election Commission of Pakistan’s (ECP) decision to delay the Punjab polls from April 30 to October 8 after the government refused to give funds to conduct the exercise citing the economic crisis.
Also Read: Governor Ghulam Ali Suggests Oct 8 as election date in KP
Imran Khan, PTI’s Chairman, has been demanding an early election since his removal from power last year, and for that purpose, he dissolved the Punjab and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa provincial assemblies in January.
Though Pakistan historically holds the national and provincial elections together, however, the ECP is also constitutionally bound to hold elections within 90 days of the dissolution of a legislative assembly.
However, when the ECP refused to announce dates for the polls, the Supreme Court in February took a suo motu notice, and later, in a split 3-2 verdict, ordered the ECP to announce the schedule for elections in the two provinces.
Last month, the ECP announced the Punjab elections on April 30. However, On March 22, it withdrew the schedule and declared October 8 as the new date, forcing the PTI to move the Supreme Court.
The Supreme Court said the ECP exceeded its jurisdiction by delaying the Punjab election date. “The constitution does not give the Election Commission of Pakistan the authority to postpone the elections,” it said.
On holding the polls in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province, the top court said a petition should be filed at an appropriate forum.
The court also ordered the government to release 21 billion rupees by April 10 for the elections and the ECP was asked to submit a report on available funds on April 11. In case the fund is not received, the Supreme Court will issue instructions to the relevant authorities.
After Justice Aminuddin and Justice Jamal Khan Mandukhel recused from the 5-member bench, the three-member bench headed by Chief Justice of Pakistan Justice Umar Atta Bandial, comprising Justice Ijaz-ul-Ahsan and Justice Muneeb Akhtar, reserved the decision after the arguments were completed yesterday.
The court had directed Secretary Defense Hamud-ul-Zaman and Additional Secretary Finance Aamir Mehmood to submit reports on the obstacles in the conduct of elections in Punjab.
Before the important decision was pronounced today, the Ministry of Defense presented the sealed report regarding the availability of security personnel to the Chief Justice in the chamber where Chief Justice Umar Atta Bandial, Justice Muneeb Akhtar, Justice Ijaz Ul Ahsan reviewed the report.