SC Directs ECP To Swiftly Set Date For Upcoming Elections


SC directs ECP to swiftly set date for upcoming elections

The top court has also directed the Election Commission of Pakistan to consult the president for elections date in the country.

ISLAMABAD: (UrduPoint/Pakistan Point News-Nov 2nd, 2023) The Supreme Court of Pakistan on Thursday directed the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) to promptly set a date for the upcoming general elections in the country.

Chief Justice of Pakistan Qazi Faez Isa has urged the ECP to consult with the president and promptly announce the election date. He also asked the attorney general to facilitate a meeting between the ECP team and the president.

The Chief Justice emphasized that the selected date would be binding for all stakeholders and adjourned the case until the following day, which is Friday.

During the proceedings on Thursday, the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) revealed that the general elections in the country are scheduled to take place on February 11, 2024. This assurance was provided by the ECP's legal counsel during the hearing of a case related to conducting general elections within a 90-day timeframe.

A three-member bench, led by Chief Justice Qazi Faez Isa and comprising Justice Aminuddin Khan and Justice Athar Minallah, presided over the case. Various parties, including the Supreme Court Bar Association, the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI), and others, had submitted applications challenging the decision of the Council of Common Interests (CCI) and the delay in general elections beyond 90 days.

The hearing saw the participation of ECP officials, the attorney general, PTI counsel Ali Zafar, and PPP's Farooq H. Naek. During the proceedings, Barrister Zafar argued for the necessity of holding general elections within the stipulated 90 days, underscoring the importance of protecting basic human rights.

Chief Justice Isa expressed his belief that no one should oppose the conduct of elections. The PTI lawyer also argued that Article 58 should be considered in conjunction with Article 224, as the announcement of the election date and the election schedule are distinct matters.

The Chief Justice inquired whether the president was required to consult the prime minister for setting an election date, to which Barrister Zafar replied that it was not mandatory for the president to do so; the president was obligated to announce the date.

Justice Minallah asked whether the president had indeed specified an election date. Barrister Zafar stated that, in his view, the president had provided a date, but the ECP rejected it, asserting that the president lacked the authority to announce a date.

Chief Justice Isa requested Barrister Zafar to produce the letter written by the president, which was subsequently read out in court. Barrister Zafar also noted that the law ministry supported the view that the president lacked the authority to specify an election date.

Justice Minallah raised questions about the president's delay in reaching out to the ECP, and the Chief Justice questioned why the president had not engaged with the Supreme Court. The Chief Justice pointed out that the constitution clearly mandated the president to provide a date within the prescribed timeframe.

Justice Minallah added that had the president announced the date when the assembly was dissolved, there would likely have been no objections. The Chief Justice emphasized the involvement of the state machinery in organizing general elections and asked whether the Supreme Court could unilaterally set an election date.

Justice Minallah questioned whether the ECP had ever requested the president to announce an election date, and Barrister Zafar admitted that they had to resort to legal action to secure a date.

The CJP asked whether the Supreme Court had the authority to set an election date without involving the president. The PTI lawyer acknowledged the Supreme Court's intervention and pointed out that the circumstances were unique.

The CJP stressed the importance of holding elections on time and questioned Barrister Zafar about his party leader's role in encouraging the president to provide a date.

Justice Amin-ud-Din Khan observed that it appeared from the arguments that the president had deviated from the constitution, and Justice Minallah noted that all parties, including the government, the ECP, and the president, shared responsibility for the election delay.

The CJP remarked on the accuracy of the president's day count until elections and questioned why he did not specify a date, considering Article 248. He also mentioned that the ECP believed it was their prerogative to set the election date under Article 57.

CJP Isa asked whether, if their order was violated, they could issue a contempt of court notice to the president. The president's potential exemption under Article 248 was also discussed.

Justice Minallah noted that there would be consequences for disobeying the order, and the Chief Justice raised the possibility of trying the president under Article 6 based on the arguments. Justice Minallah clarified that Article 6 was invoked to suspend the constitution and stated that the constitution had not yet been violated, though it could be after November 7.

The proceedings in the case were expected to be completed on the same day. In a previous hearing on October 23, the Supreme Court had sought responses from the Federal government and the Election Commission of Pakistan regarding the election delay.

The Supreme Court Bar Association had previously petitioned the Supreme Court to order the ECP to announce an election date for the national and provincial assemblies, as required by Article 224(2) of the Constitution. This request was made in response to the CCI's August 5 decision, which resulted in a delay of the general elections beyond 90 days.

Abdullah Hussain

Abdullah Hussain is a staff member who writes on politics, human rights, social issues and climate change.