Wednesday April 24, 2024

President writes to PM: ‘Ensure Punjab, KP polls on time to avoid SC contempt’

President said PM being head of the government was responsible for safeguarding human rights as well as fundamental rights

By Asim Yasin
March 25, 2023
File photos of Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif and President Arif Alvi. — AFP/ APP
File photos of Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif and President Arif Alvi. — AFP/ APP

ISLAMABAD: President Dr Arif Alvi Friday urged Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif to ensure implementation of the Supreme Court order about the general election in Punjab and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa. 

In a letter to the prime minister, the president emphasised that all relevant executive authorities of the federal and provincial governments should be directed to refrain from abuse of human rights and assist the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) to hold the general election in two provinces within the constitutional time-frame, in compliance of the apex court order, to avoid further complications, including contempt of court.

The president said the prime minister, being head of the government, was responsible for safeguarding human rights as well as fundamental rights of every citizen of Pakistan, as enshrined in the Constitution. The president said that events that were highlighted by the print, electronic and social media had taken place in the recent past about glaring violations of fundamental and human rights needed to be brought to the premier’s notice to ensure remedial measures and preventive action.

President Alvi said that election to the provincial assemblies in case of their dissolution under Article 105 or Article 112, were required to be held within 90 days, under Article 224(2) of the Constitution. The top court, in its order dated March 1, had directed the electoral watchdog to propose date(s) to the president for holding the poll within 90 days or on a date that deviates to the barest minimum from the aforesaid deadline, he added.

The president said that KP Governor Haji Ghulam Ali was also directed by the SC to appoint a date for holding the general election to the provincial assembly as per the time-frame. “Subsequently, the ECP had proposed holding of general election between April 30 and May 7, 2023 and general election to the Punjab Assembly were announced to be held on April 30, 2023 and the same was notified by the ECP,” read the letter. The head of the state said it appeared that federal and caretaker governments in Punjab and KP advised the heads of departments concerned to show their inability to provide necessary support for holding of general election.

He referred to Article 220 of the Constitution, which states that “It shall be the duty of all executive authorities in the federation and in the provinces to assist the commissioner and the election commission in discharge of his or their functions.”

The president underlined that in his opinion, flagrant violation of the Constitution had been committed by the executive authorities and the government departments, adding that the ECP had not implemented his announcement of holding general election in Punjab on April 30, and also blatantly violated the Supreme Court order.

The ECP announced the date of October 8, 2023, for holding general election to provincial assemblies of Punjab and KP, he added. He maintained that it was a matter of concern that the prime minister had undertaken no meaningful consultation with the president on policy issues in line with Article 46 of the Constitution, which provided that the PM should keep the president informed on all matters of internal and foreign policy and on all legislative proposals the federal government intended to bring before the parliament. He added that Rule 15(5) of Rules of Business, 1973 also highlighted the responsibility of the PM, inter-alia, to furnish such information relating to the administration of affairs of the Federation and proposals for legislation as the president may call for.

In his letter, the president also drew the attention of the PM towards the seriousness of incidents of human rights violations, atrocities of police and law enforcement agencies and grossly disproportionate use of force against citizens.

He said multiple fake and frivolous cases had been registered against politicians, workers, journalists and media persons; houses of political workers had been raided, and citizens had been abducted without warrants and lawful justification. The president termed the incidents of human rights violations and oppression by state machinery against innocent citizens “clear breach and violations of fundamental rights”, guaranteed by Article 4 of the Constitution, which provides for, and guarantees, citizens to enjoy the protection of the law and to be treated in accordance with the law.

“This has tarnished the image of Pakistan in the international community and is casting negative repercussions on the future of democracy and state of human rights in Pakistan,” he added. The president highlighted that in the World Press Freedom Index of 2021, Pakistan ranked 145 out of 180 countries, and dropped to 157 i.e. 12 points downwards at the World Press Freedom Index, 2022, which reflected the sorry state of affairs and this year’s actions and images would further exacerbate Pakistan’s already dismal ranking.

He wrote that in the recent months, media had been further suppressed and journalists had also been subjected to charges of sedition and terrorism to stifle dissent and criticism of the government. It appears that a reign of terror has been unleashed against the media persons who have independent opinions, he added.

Separately, sharply reacting to the letter, Interior Minister Rana Sanaullah Khan said on Friday President Arif Alvi should stay within his legal limits and constitutional ambit and should not become a puppet of Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf Chairman Imran Khan. Talking to a private news channel, he alleged that violator of the Constitution and lawbreaker [President Alvi] had been holding a constitutional position. “Get the answer from Imran Khan about doing terrorism. Don’t be a puppet of Imran Khan,” the interior minister thundered.

“Where were human rights when a fake case of 15-kg heroin possession was framed [against him],” Rana Sana questioned as he listed human rights violations and political persecution during Imran Khan’s term as prime minister. He continued: “Is the opposition leader put on death row according to human rights? The sisters and daughters of political opponents were put on death row in the previous rule. The bones of journalists were broken, where were human rights at that time?

“Write a letter to Imran Khan to return 190 million pounds to Pakistan.

“Write a letter to Imran to own his daughter. Write a letter to Imran Khan to respond to Toshakhana and foreign funding cases in court,” he told President Alvi.