Monday June 17, 2024

'We will hear this case', says CJP Isa on withdrawal of plea seeking re-election

"Find and present complainant before court," says CJP while lamenting attempt to "mock" country's top court

By Maryam Nawaz
February 19, 2024
Chief Justice of Pakistan (CJP) Qazi Faez Isa during a hearing in the apex court. — YouTube/PTV News/File
Chief Justice of Pakistan (CJP) Qazi Faez Isa during a hearing in the apex court. — YouTube/PTV News/File

ISLAMABAD: Chief Justice of Pakistan (CJP) Qazi Faez Isa on Monday stressed that the Supreme Court (SC) would hear the case seeking annulment of general elections after the petitioner withdrew his plea that seeks re-election across the country due to alleged rigging on February 8.

"Find and present the complainant before the court [...] The court cannot be subjected to such mockery," CJP Isa said as the apex court's bench comprising Justice Musarrat Hilali and Justice Muhammad Ali Mazhar conducted the hearing on complainant Brig (retd) Ali Khan's petition.

The development comes in the backdrop of concerns raised by several political parties including Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI), Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP), Jamaat-e-Islami and Jamiat Ulema-e-Islam-Fazl (JUI-F) who have expressed dissatisfaction over the transparency of the general elections.

Doubts over the polls were further exacerbated by the revelations made by now-former Rawalpindi commissioner Liaqat Chatha, who on Saturday, tendered his resignation out of "guilty conscience" for abetting large-scale electoral rigging in the garrison city further raising the political mercury in the country.

The Rawalpindi Division comprises 13 National Assembly seats, on which 11 Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) candidates were successful, while the rest were secured by an independent candidate and Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP). The division also has 27 provincial seats — on which PML-N was successful on 15 and 11 independents.

During today's hearing, CJP Isa questioned whether the petition was filed for mere publicity.

"The complainant [had] released the petition to the media as soon it was filed," the top judge said while directing the authorities to establish contact with the petitioner via telephone.

The top judge further directed the additional attorney general to coordinate with the relevant station house officer (SHO) and present the complainant before the court.

"Who knows if the complainant himself filed the petition or not? [...] What if he says that he hasn't withdrawn the petition," the chief justice questioned.

The apex court, during the hearing, was told that the petitioner could neither be reached via his stated telephone number nor his address despite having a notification issued by the Defence Ministry as well.

The court then adjourned the hearing till February 21.

It is pertinent to mention that political parties are not the only ones with reservations over the transparency of polls as the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan (HRCP) has also raised concerns about the reliability and trustworthiness of the general elections — especially the post-polling process.

In its observations, made by HRCP's election monitors, who conducted on-site inspections in 51 constituencies, the body underscored that the nationwide suspension of internet and mobile services on the day of the polls, along with unplanned alterations in polling information, jeopardised voters' ability to locate polling stations.

The ECP must publish all Forms 45, 46, 48, and 49 under the Elections Act 2017 and should order ballot recounts in close contests, especially in cases where the number of rejected ballots exceeds the margin of victory, it added.

SHC constitutes tribunal over rigging allegations

Last week the chief justice of the Sindh High Court (SHC) formed a tribunal for hearing petitions pertaining to rigging in the February 8 general elections. The announcement was made by the Registrar of the SHC in a notification on Friday.

According to the notification, the principal seat of the high court will hear election pleas in Karachi. The notification said the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) Sindh had written a letter seeking the formation of a tribunal to hear petitions related to rigging in elections.

Moreover, two benches have been established for the Karachi division. Bench one will comprise Justice Muhammad Kareem Khan Agha, and bench two will comprise Justice Adnan Iqbal Chaudhry.

Justice Muhammad Iqbal Kalhoro, Justice Amjad Ali Sahito, and Justice Muhammad Saleem Jessar will hear the election petitions in Sukkur, Hyderabad, and Larkana divisions respectively.