ISLAMABAD: The Supreme Court (SC) directed the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) to hold elections in the provinces of Punjab and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa within 90 days.
The hearing on the suo moto notice was concluded on Tuesday, and the Supreme Court (SC) declared a divided decision of 3-2.
Justices Jamal Mandokhail and Mansoor Ali Shah disagreed with the majority decision and the admissibility of the suo moto notice, but Chief Justice of Pakistan Justice Umar Ata Bandial, Justice Munib Akhtar, and Justice Muhammad Ali Mazhar backed the decision.
Justice Yahya Afridi and Justice Athar Minallah’s viewpoint was supported by Justices Shah and Mandokhail in their dissenting notes.
The short decision concluded that the Pakistani Election Commission did not successfully carry out its duties during the election. While the president is authorised by law and the constitution to set the election date in Punjab, it is the duty of the provincial governor to announce the election date in KP.
If elections in Punjab cannot be held on April 9, as the president had declared, a consultation would be held to determine a new date.
Following President Arif Alvi’s announcement of the election date, the SC took the suo motu notice of what appeared to be a delay in the Punjab and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa elections on February 23. This action was sharply criticised by the government.
The case was previously being heard by a nine-member bench, but on Monday it was divided into a five-judge bench as a result of four judges recusing themselves from hearing the case: Justice Ijazul Ahsan, Justice Syed Mazahar Ali Akbar Naqvi, Justice Syed Mansoor Ali Shah, and Justice Athar Minallah.
The case was considered by a five-judge panel that included Chief Justice Umar Ata Bandial, Justices Munib Akhtar, Muhammad Ali Mazhar, Justice Shah, and Justice Mandokhail.
The lawyers’ assistance in the case was acknowledged by Chief Justice of Pakistan (CJP) Umar Ata Bandial.
The coalition government and PTI were were given until 4 p.m. to meet and determine the dates for the elections in Punjab and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa. But no mutually acceptable time was identified.
The hearing on Tuesday
Attorney General for Pakistan (AGP) Barrister Shehzad Ata Elahi objected to Supreme Court Bar Association President Abid Zuberi at the beginning of the session, claiming that his name had been taken off the court order.
CJP Bandial stated, “What is written in the court is not a part of a judicial order.”
Judge Mandokhail questioned whether the governors and president were required to follow the cabinet’s recommendations at one point during the hearing. He inquired as to whether or not they could independently notify the polling day.
According to the Constitution, “presidents and governors were required to adopt the Cabinet’s advice,” he said.
He said, “Can the president or governors announce the election date on their own?”
Zuberi asserted that the president was required to communicate with the ECP before choosing an election date.
“President may only take choices as head of State,” Judge Mansoor Ali Shah responded.
Here, the CJP enquired as to who would send out the notification for the dissolution of the legislature.
Zuberi responded by stating that the law secretary had issued the notification for the dissolution of the Punjab Assembly.
Judge Akhtar then noted that the 90-day period begins immediately with the dissolution of the assembly.
Judge Mandokhail meanwhile argued that under to Article 48 of the Constitution, the government must always be consulted before the president takes any official action.
Judge Mazhar then stated that the governor will announce the date while taking the Election Commission’s rulings into consideration.
Is the President permitted to make decisions without consulting the Cabinet? Judge Shah enquired.