Islamabad: The Supreme Court of Pakistan (SCP) on Tuesday declared the order of the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) regarding delay in elections in Punjab and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa null and void. The top court ruled that elections would be held on May 14 instead of previous schedul of April 30.
Apex court's three-member bench headed by Chief Justiece Umar Ata Bandial and comprising Justice Munib Akhtar and Justice Ijazul Ahsan issued the verdict reserved on Monday after hearing arguments from parties concerned.
Ahead of the ruling, the Ministry of Defence submitted its report in a sealed envelop to the top court. Sources said the report contained reasons about unavailability of troops for elections in Punjab and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa. The court will announce the verdict after reviewing the report.
At the outset of the yesterday's hearing, Chief Justice Umar Ata Bandial asked PPP counsel Farooq H. Naek whether his party had boycotted the proceedings.
Attorney General for Pakistan Mansoor Awan, ECP lawyers Irfan Qadir and Sajeel Swati and PTI lawyer Ali Zafar were also present in the courtroom as the hearing bagan. Also in attendance were secretaries of finance and defence.
How can you boycott the case and at the same time attend the hearing, Justice Akhtar said. How can anyone boycott proceedings of the case, he inquired. He said newspaper reports suggested that the government had boycotted the proceedings and how could he (Mr Naek) give arguments. He also asked Mr Naek to read out the joint statement and expressed displeasure with the language used in it.
The CJP asked the PPP lawyer if he wanted to become a part of the proceedings and Mr Naek assured that his party did not boycott the hearing. Chief Justice Umar Ata Bandial said something else was written in the newspapers and the PPP counsel replied that his party had reservations on the maintainability of the petition. The CJP asked Mr Naek to give assurance in writing that the party had not boycotted the hearing.
Chief Justice Bandial then inquired about the directions the AGP had received. Mr Awan replied that the government worked under the Constitution and could not boycott the proceedings. He, however, claimed that the PTI petition was based on the SC's March 1 verdict in which the apex court had instructed the president to select a date for elections in Punjab and the governor to pick a date for polls in KP. The KP governor did not select a date until the petition was filed, he said.
The question had been raised on how could the ECP give the date of Oct 8 for polls, the CJP said. He said only the apex court had the authority to delay elections and the Election Commission of Pakistan had no such power to do so.