Pakistan’s apex court orders EC to hold elections in Punjab, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa within 90 days
Pakistan's apex court on Wednesday, in a 3-2 verdict, said that the assembly elections must be held within three months. “The order of the president dated Feb 20 is constitutionally competent and it applies to the Punjab Assembly, but the same is constitutionally invalid insofar as it applies to the KP Assembly and is therefore hereby set aside," the court ruling said.
After having launched suo motu proceedings last week over the delay in announcement of election dates for Punjab and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa provinces, Pakistan's Supreme Court on Wednesday ordered the election commission to hold elections in both provinces within the 90-day period as mandated by the Constitution.
After the Supreme Court order, Imran Khan's Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) party suspended its ‘Jail Bharo Tehreek’ (court arrest movement. PTI had dissolved the Punjab and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa assemblies on January 14 and 18 respectively to force early general elections in the country.
Ruling that the polls should be held within three months, Pakistan's apex court said in a 3-2 verdict, “Parliamentary democracy is a salient feature of the Constitution. There can be no parliamentary democracy without Parliament or the provincial assemblies," reported Pakistan's local media outlet, Dawn.
“And there can be neither Parliament nor provincial assemblies without the holding of general elections as envisaged, required and mandated by and under the Constitution and in accordance therewith," the ruling added.
As per the country's constitution, once a provincial assembly gets dissolved, the elections must take place in 90 days. The stalemate over the fresh provincial elections continued after their dissolution earlier.
The Punjab provincial assembly was dissolved on January 14 by the country's former prime minister Imran Khan-led Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) party to force the ruling government to conduct general elections early.
Meanwhile, the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province was dissolved after Governor Haji Ghulam Ali signed the summary for the same upon the advice of Chief Minister Mahmood Khan. The governor alleged that the Imran Khan party was acting as a roadblock hindering the country's economic crisis.
As the dissolution process in both the provincial assemblies was carried out in a different manner, Pakistan Supreme Court cited the same in its ruling.
The court said that Punjab President Arif Alvi's unilateral announcement of the Punjab provincial election date, April 9, is "constitutionally competent." SC said that if the elections are not held within the stipulated time of 90 days, the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) can provide a date.
On the other hand, the court said as the KP province was dissolved by the governor, he is bound to consult with the election body to announce a date. It added that the president’s date in KP holds invalid.
The 3-2 majority verdict was given by Chief Justice of Pakistan (CJP) Umar Ata Bandial along with Justice Munib Akhtar and Justice Muhammad Ali Mazhar.
“It further follows that the order of the president dated Feb 20 is constitutionally competent and it applies to the Punjab Assembly, but the same is constitutionally invalid insofar as it applies to the KP Assembly and is therefore hereby set aside," the court ruling said.
“The federal government is inter alia obligated on an immediate and urgent basis, to forthwith provide the Election Commission with all such facilities, personnel and security as it may require for the holding of the general elections,” it added.
Khan hailed the judgment with a tweet, “We welcome the SC judgement. It was responsibility of SC to uphold Constitution & they have valiantly done that through their judgement today. It is an assertion of Rule of Law in Pak. We are suspending our Jail Bharo movement & moving forward with election campaigns in KP & Punjab.”
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