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Monday June 17, 2024

Level-playing field: Top court issues notices to Punjab IG, chief secretary on PTI plea

PTI submits additional documents containing evidence to the top court

By Maryam Nawaz
January 03, 2024

SC bench led by CJP Qazi Faez Isa conducts a hearing on PTIs plea against ECP in this still taken from a video on January 3, 2024. — GeoNews/YouTube
SC bench led by CJP Qazi Faez Isa conducts a hearing on PTI's plea against ECP in this still taken from a video on January 3, 2024. — GeoNews/YouTube

ISLAMABAD: The Supreme Court on Wednesday issued notices to top Punjab officials on the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) petition seeking a level-playing field in the lead up to the February 8 general elections. 

The notices were issued to the Punjab Inspector General of Police (IGP), chief secretary and advocate general, seeking their response on the PTI's allegations regarding alleged harassment of their candidates and party leaders.

A three-member bench led by Chief Justice of Pakistan (CJP) Qazi Faez Isa and comprising Justice Muhammad Ali Mazhar and Justice Musrat Hilali heard the matter and adjourned the hearing of the case till January 8.

The proceedings of the case were broadcast live on SC's website and YouTube channel.

PTI lawyer Latif Khosa presented arguments on behalf of Advocate Shoaib Shaheen, who filed the appeal in the court.

On December 22, The top court directed the ECP to address the PTI’s concerns regarding the level-playing field on the former ruling party’s petition.

In line with the court’s order, the ECP representatives met the PTI delegation and assured them of addressing its grievances in the lead up to the February 8 national vote.

However, the party filed another petition on December 26, seeking contempt of court proceedings against the ECP over the electoral body's alleged failure to ensure a level-playing field.

In its petition, it lamented the electoral body's failure to implement the apex court's directions — despite being notified by the Punjab ECP — wherein it had ordered the poll organising authority to address the PTI's concerns.

The application referred to the top court's ruling, in response to the PTI's earlier petition filed under Article 184(3) of the Constitution complaining of being denied equal opportunities in the political arena, where it directed the electoral body to meet with the party's representatives and address its relevant concerns.

The party, in its recent application, contends that the ECP secretary failed to abide by the apex court's December 22 verdict as PTI candidates continued to be harassed and arrested even after the top court's ruling.

Furthermore, the plea — which mentions the ECP and interior secretaries as parties to the case along with the Inspector General Police (IGPs) of all four provinces — also levels serious allegations against the Punjab IG, labelling him as the "mastermind" behind the crackdown against the PTI.

Seeking action against those responsible for violating the court's order, the party had prayed to the court to ensure that its candidates are allowed to hold rallies and political gatherings.

Hearing

At the outset of the hearing, CJP Isa reprimanded Khosa for using the Sardar title with his name.

“Stop using words like Sardar, Nawab and Peer,” the CJP said while expressing displeasure over the use of such a title.

CJP Isa asked Khosa to show evidence that the ECP had violated the court's direction regarding the redressal of PTI's level-playing field grievances.

"I have brought the CD containing all evidence," Khosa replied adding that the PTI leaders were not allowed to submit their nomination papers.

"The entire Pakistan has seen what is happening with PTI."

At this, the CJP advised the PTI counsel against making "political speech" in the courtroom and asked him to only talk about the Constitution and law.

The CJP inquired whether the petition was accusing of the IG and the chief secretary behind the actions against the PTI leader.

"What does the IG and the chief secretary have to do with the election?" the CJP wondered.

"Do you want action against individuals or the Election Commission?" the CJP asked.

Khosa replied that it was the responsibility of the Election Commission to conduct transparent elections.

"Of course, we are saying that it is the responsibility of the Election Commission. You are seeking contempt of court against IGs and the chief secretary," the CJP said in response.

Justice Mahar inquired how many nomination papers of PTI candidates were approved from national and provincial assembly seats.

"You [Khosa] are only telling the rejection of the nomination papers, also tell about the approval," he added.

PTI lawyers submit documents to SC

Ahead of the hearing today, the PTI submitted additional documents containing evidence of the alleged denial of level-playing field to the top court.

In the documents, the SC was informed that the nomination papers of as many as 668 PTI candidates were rejected by returning officers appointed by the ECP.

As many as 56 incidents of nomination papers' snatching took place while seconders and proposers of the PTI were arrested in different parts of the country, the party said in the documents.