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Wednesday, May 22, 2024  
13 Dhul-Qadah 1445  

Punjab polls order: SC reiterates importance of talks between govt, opposition

Sends notices to AGP, Punjab and KP advocate generals; hearing adjourned till May 23

The Supreme Court has reiterated the importance of talks between the government and opposition to end the election stalemate, which has gripped the country since the April 4 order.

“The ball is now in the court of opposition and the government,” Chief Justice of Pakistan Umar Ata Bandial said while hearing an ECP’s petition requesting the top court to revise its April 4 ruling that ordered elections to the Punjab Assembly on May 14. “Come prepared by next week.”

A three-member bench comprising CJP Bandial, Justice Munib Akhtar, and Justice Ijazul Ahsan heard the case. It is the same bench that had ordered that gave the April 4 order.

At the outset of the hearing, the CJP remarked that the issue of funds and security was previously mentioned by the ECP. “Today the election commission has raised a question on the jurisdiction of the Supreme Court,” he said and added that notices would be issued on the review petition.

The chief justice asked the counsel of the ECP how much time does he need for the arguments. To this, the lawyer replied that he needed three to four hours for it.

“We will hear all the parties. It is a review petition and how much time is required for preparation,” the CJP said.

PTI’s lawyer Ali Zafar said that there were two orders on this matter. At present half of the country’s population was without representation, the court should issue an order to implement its orders at this time, he added.

He said that the scope of the review petition was limited, adding that the ECP was neither a political party nor the government.

The chief justice remarked that the ECP’s stance should also be heard if the petition was admissible.

“The Constitution has been murdered. The caretaker governments are nonconstitutional. No injunction has been issued on the order of the May 14 elections, the court order should be implemented,” he said.

The chief justice remarked that the order given by the court was final. The Supreme Court Bar secretary appeared in the court and stated that the bar stands with the SC.

CJP remarked that certain points are pending and they “will decide” on them.

The ECP lawyer maintained that the scope of the review petition was not limited, adding that the jurisdiction cannot be limited in constitutional cases.

The court remarked that new points cannot be raised in the review petition.

“We have an important case to hear tomorrow, why not postpone the case till Tuesday next week,” CJP Bandial remarked.

PTI’s lawyer Ali Zafar said that implementation of the Constitution was everyone’s duty.

“The order will be implemented once it is finalised,” the CJP responded.

CJP Bandial said that the court wanted to hear the ECP’s arguments on the maintainability of the petition. Notices would also be issued to the provincial governments and other political parties, he added.

“The court has to look at the situation along with the Constitution,” the CJP said and wondered who would accept election results if there was such a situation.

In an apparent reference to the protesters gathered outside the SC, Justice Bandial said: “Look at the situation outside the SC. What is happening outside, who will implement the Constitution?”

“If there is peace then things will go on, go out and see the country’s institutions and assets are being burnt, installations are being set on fire, we will also see what is happening for four to five days, elections are the basis of democracy.”

The chief justice added that it was important to protect people’s lives, adding that the executive and opposition should maintain high standards of ethics. Implementation of the Constitution was mandatory, he said but wondered how the Constitution would be implemented amid this environment. The election commission raised “good points”, he said.

CJP Bandial advised the PTI lawyer to again look at the negotiation process. “We do not know politics and do not want to know.”

The PTI’s counsel said that his arguments, in this case, won’t be political. To this, the CJP remarked that they have to create a high moral ground.

Zafar replied that the date could not be agreed upon as arrests were continued. The manner in which Khan was arrested spread fear. To this, the CJP said: “Khan has got relief”.

He then told Attorney General for Pakistan Mansoor Usman Awan that ball was now in his court. “Why don’t you negotiate? We are sitting here to protect the rights of the people. I saw yesterday that the motorways are empty, the economy has come to a grinding halt.”

The AGP told the court that the government took the negotiations “seriously”. He alleged that the PTI had ended the talks between the two sides.

“You should resume negotiations. Do not make the current situation worse,” the CJP said.

CJP Bandial remarked that elections in 90 days were the main issue. “The negotiations between the government and the opposition are the main thing,” he said.

The court adjourned the hearing of the case till May 23. The court also issued notices to the federal government, PTI, PML-N, PPP and the governors of Punjab and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, while suggesting that the government and the PTI should resume talks. The court sought a response from the AGP by Tuesday.

ECP’s petition

The Supreme Court has overstepped its authority as the top court does not have the authority to fix the date of the elections, said the ECP petition. “The court can interpret the law but cannot rewrite it.”

The ECP added that the government did not provide them with security and required funds for the elections in Punjab. It was of the view that the National Assembly elections would not be transparent after holding snap polls in two provinces, Punjab and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa.

“The Supreme Court in its judgment prematurely used Article 254 of the Constitution in the Haji Saifullah case. Regardless of the fact that there is a decision of an 11-member larger bench in this regard in which the election was allowed to be postponed by four months,” it said.

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Supreme Court

Election commission of Pakistan

Punjab KP Elections

Punjab Elections