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Wednesday April 24, 2024

Punjab, KP elections: ECP to seek services of judicial officers again

ECP had written to the provincial top courts, urging them to spare judicial officers

By Mumtaz Alvi
March 07, 2023
A representational image of the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) building. — Facebook
A representational image of the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) building. — Facebook

ISLAMABAD: The Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) has decided to seek the services of officers from the judiciary again to work as district returning officers (DROs) and returning officers (ROs) for the upcoming general election in Punjab and Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa.

Sources privy to a series of meetings, held at the ECP and presided over by Chief Election Commissioner (CEC) Sikandar Sultan Raja, told The News on Monday that letters in this regard would soon be written to the Lahore High Court (LHC) and Peshawar High Court (PHC). “As compared to other officials, tasked with the duty of district returning offices and returning officers, the history bears testimony to the fact that there are far fewer complaints in relation to the conduct of election processes. Therefore, the Election Commission is keen to seek cooperation from the judiciary on this count,” they added. They pointed out that the decision to write to the two top provincial courts had been taken in light of the recent Supreme Court of Pakistan judgment in the general election delay case.

The operative part of the verdict says: “For election to an assembly, the Commission shall, in the prescribed manner, appoint a district returning officer for each district or a specified area from amongst its own officers subject to availability; by selection from a list of officers provided by the government or a provincial government; or from the subordinate judiciary in consultation with the Chief Justice of the high court concerned,” Section 50 states.

Earlier, after the dissolution of Punjab and KP assemblies, the ECP had written to the provincial top courts, urging them to spare judicial officers for election-related duty. However, the LHC Registrar had written to the ECP showing its inability to spare members of the subordinate judiciary for poll duties; the response from the Peshawar High Court was still awaited.

The ECP sources said the recent apex court judgment had given new hope to the Commission, which had been not comfortable with the government officers, as they could easily be influenced by the governments concerned. In this connection, they referred to a large number of complaints, which poured in during the recently-conducted local government polls in Sindh, and the Daska by-election, when the presiding officers mysteriously disappeared to manipulate the election results.

Also in Karachi, some presiding officers expressed ignorance about their signatures on the result forms during hearings in the Election Commission. Jamaat-e-Islami had filed petitions in relation to six union councils, alleging irregularities therein.

Sources also pointed out that the appointment of officers from the district administration was problematic as well due to the shortage of officers, which compelled the Election Commission to appoint ‘junior level officers’ for election duties, many of whom have political backgrounds and hence can be influenced so easily one way or the other. It was also learnt that the schedule for the upcoming general election in Punjab is expected to be announced on Tuesday (today). The President has already fixed the date of April 30 (Sunday) for polling.