SCBA slams ECP move to postpone Punjab polls

Election Commission could not change the date for elections under any circumstances whatsoever, say SCBA officials

By Our Correspondent
March 24, 2023
The name board outside the ECP building in Islamabad. Geo/File

ISLAMABAD: The Supreme Court Bar Association (SCBA) Thursday strongly condemned the Election Commission Pakistan’s notification, issued on March 22, 2023, whereby the date for elections to the Punjab Assembly had been postponed till October 8, 2023.

In a statement issued here, Abid S Zubairi, President, and Muqtedir Akthar Shabbir, Secretary SCBA, said the Election Commission could not change the date for elections under any circumstances whatsoever.

They said the Supreme Court, vide its order dated March 1, 2023, passed in SMC No1/2023, had made it inexplicably clear that elections had to be held within the 90-day time period, stipulated under Article 224(2) of the Constitution.

However, they said that it was unfortunate that the Election Commission acted in such blatant disregard of its constitutional mandate and the order of the Supreme Court.

There is no provision in the Election Act or the Constitution that allows the Election Commission to conduct elections beyond the 90-day time period, stipulated by Article 224(2) of the Constitution, they added.

They further said that it was truly unfortunate to see that the Election Commission had grossly misinterpreted the Constitution, the law and order of the Supreme Court.

“It follows from the foregoing that the Election Commission has acted in excess of jurisdiction and breached its constitutional mandate,” they said, adding that it was also pertinent to highlight that the only constitutional function of the caretaker government was to ensure conduct of fair and transparent elections and even the caretaker government was bound by the time period, stipulated in Article 224(2).

“Therefore, the caretaker government cannot function beyond the 90-day period stipulated in Article 224(2),” the SCBA president and secretary added.

They said that such violation of the Constitution could only lead to utter chaos and anarchy in the country. Given the current political and economic crises in the country, restoration of democracy and timely elections are need of the hour; whereas the Election Commission in issuing the notification dated March 22, 2023 opened the door to absolute chaos and uncertainty.

They said that all the state institutions and functionaries have taken their oath under the Constitution and it is, therefore, incumbent upon them to guard all provisions of the Constitution as sacrosanct, including Article 224(2) of the Constitution.

They expressed the hope that better sense would prevail and the sanctity of Article 224(2) of the Constitution would be protected, and called upon all state institutions and functionaries to ensure that such abrogation of the Constitution was not allowed to take place.

They demanded the Election Commission immediately withdraw its notification dated March 22, 2023 and strictly adhere to the earlier issued schedule.

“The SCBA would take all necessary and legal actions to stand behind the Constitution and the Supreme Court,” they announced and stressed that at this stage for all Pakistanis to be united and make unanimous efforts to defend democracy and rule of law in the country.