Pakistan’s Supreme Court on Tuesday declared unconstitutional the Election Commission of Pakistan’s (ECP) decision to postpone the Punjab Assembly polls to Oct 8, and set the date of elections to May 14.
The apex court, which acted upon a plea by Imran Khan’s Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) party, asked the election body to reinstate its previous election schedule, saying that it cannot breach the 90-day buffer time.
The verdict was given by a three-member bench, headed by Chief Justice of Pakistan (CJP) Umar Ata Bandial.
Earlier, the ECP had set the election date in Punjab and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa on April 30, but later postponed it to October 8, following which the PTI decided to challenge the order.
The top court said that the nomination papers should be finalised by April 10, and the election commission should publish the list of candidates on April 19, while the electoral symbols will be issued by April 20, Dawn newspaper reported.
Pakistan: A Tug of war between government and Judiciary
While pronouncing the verdict, the court observed that ECP wasted 13 days because of its unlawful decision, and directed the caretaker government in Punjab to assist the commission. It also instructed the ECP to inform the top court if the government refused to do so.
Further, the apex court ordered the federal government to release Rs 21 billion for elections in Punjab by April 10, and take measures to provide additional security in the province.
The court ordered the ECP to submit a report on the matter in court the same day. “In the case of non-provision of funds, the court will issue an appropriate order.” “Elections should be conducted transparently and impartially,” the apex court added.
Notably, at the time of the hearing, the parliament passed the Supreme Court (Practice and Procedure) Bill, 2023, to curtail the powers of the chief justice. However, President Arif Alvi is yet to sign it.
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