ISLAMABAD: The Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) Wednesday announced the holding of polls in Punjab on May 14 following orders of the Supreme Court of Pakistan.
The country's top court, in a unanimous verdict a day earlier, declared the ECP's decision to defer elections in the province as "unconstitutional".
The top court ordered the electoral authority to conduct elections on the aforementioned date.
The ECP took the decision in an emergency meeting held today for consultations on the SC verdict. Chief Election Commissioner (CEC) Sikandar Sultan Raja chaired the session.
The Supreme Court on Tuesday voided the ECP’s decision on Punjab and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KP) elections.
A three-member SC bench comprising Chief Justice Umar Ata Bandial, Justice Munib Akhtar and Justice Ijaz Ul Ahsan announced the decision in open court and declared the ECP’s decision to hold polls on October 8 as unconstitutional.
The court directed the ECP to reinstate its previous election schedule under which polls were to be held and extended it by 13 days.
The court clarified that the ECP could not go beyond the 90-day stipulated time and stated that 13 days were wasted because of the ECP’s unlawful decision.
The top court also directed the caretaker government in Punjab to assist the ECP and instructed the commission to inform it if the government refused to do so.
The constitution and laws of the election commission did not allow an extension of the date, it added.
According to the decision, candidates would be able to submit nomination papers from April 10, the electoral body would publish the list of candidates on April 19, and electoral symbols would be issued by April 20.
The court also directed the government to release Rs 21 billion for elections in Punjab by April 10 and told 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, it added.
In his reaction, Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif equated the judicial murder of former prime minister Zulfikar Ali Bhutto with the verdict of the apex court and said that it was ironic that the ex-premier was judicially murdered on April 4 and once again on the same day justice was "murdered".
Speaking in the National Assembly, the prime minister said the cabinet meeting had demanded that the reference over the judicial murder of the late premier pending for the last 12 years should be taken up and decided by the full court.
“The world knows that ZAB’s case was a judicial murder as one of the former judges who had decided the case, had accepted it in his memoirs,” he said.
Praising ZAB, PM Shehbaz said he was among the founders of the 1973 Constitution and his historic contribution would always be remembered.
“The events that took place in the past 72 hours are tantamount to the murder of justice.”
Earlier today, Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) Senior Vice-President Maryam Nawaz blasted CJP Bandial for his remarks on the parliamentarians during a hearing of the Punjab election delay case.
"When the parliamentarians were talking about law and Constitution, you [CJP] taunted them. Do you know how prideful it is to go to jail for an ideology?" said the PML-N leader while addressing a lawyers' convention in Rawalpindi.
Maryam's comments came after CJP remarked that certain lawmakers speaking on the floor of the National Assembly had served jail terms and were declared traitors in the past.
"Today, when you go to parliament, you find people [...] who were, until yesterday, in captivity, imprisoned, declared traitors. They are now talking over there, and being respected because they are representatives of the people."
Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) Chairman Bilawal Bhutto-Zardari also accused “individuals” in the judiciary of “doing politics”.
Speaking at a ceremony for laying the foundation stone of the first “health city” in Gambat, Sindh the foreign minister accused members of the judiciary of taking sides, saying: “These institutions have become puppets.”
Speaking about the ongoing conundrum regarding the polls in Punjab and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KP), he alleged: “The same plan through which the “selected” was imposed in 2018 is being put into play even today. An unworthy and incompetent leader was imposed on us back then and these judges could not see.”
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