The Sindh High Court (SHC) on Wednesday issued pre-admission notices to the Election Commission of Pakistan and others on a petition seeking holding of general election under judicial oversight through the appointment of judicial officers as district returning officers.
Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) leader and former Sindh Assembly leader of the opposition Haleem Adil Sheikh, and others had submitted in the petition that the PTI was facing numerous challenges after the change of regime in April 2022, including registration of cases against the party chairman, restrictions on freedom of speech and assembly, and party leaders being forced to shift loyalty.
Their counsel, Ali Tahir, submitted that the caretaker government had failed to maintain neutrality, which raised doubts about the possibility of holding free and fair elections, particularly with regard to the PTI. He added that pre-polling rigging tactics, including restrictions on freedom and closures of party offices, indicated a deliberate attempt to hinder the PTI’s participation in the elections.
He submitted that despite state highhandedness against the PTI leadership, the ECP had directed the PTI to submit a report on intra-party elections. He said the petitioners apprehended that all such was being done to give the PTI’s election symbol to another party whereas the Section 215(3) of the Election Act stated that an election symbol already allocated to a political party shall not be allocated to any other political party or combination of political parties.
The high court was requested to direct the ECP to initiate the election process as contained in sections 50, 51 and 52 of the Election Act and hold the general elections free and fair under the judicial oversight through the appointment of judicial officers as district returning officers.
He also sought an injunction for the ECP to not allocate the PTI’s election symbol ‘bat’ to any other party or combination of political parties.
A division bench of the high court headed by Acting Chief Justice Aqeel Ahmed Abassi after a preliminary hearing of the petition issued pre-admission notices to the ECP, attorney general, Sindh advocate general and others, and called their comments on December 14.