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Wednesday April 24, 2024

SC dismisses plea seeking fresh polls as withdrawn

Petitioner also prayed to initiate a thorough and impartial investigation into the acts of alleged pre-poll rigging, election fraud

By Our Correspondent
February 22, 2024
A policeman walks past the Supreme Court building in Islamabad Pakistan. — AFP/File
A policeman walks past the Supreme Court building in Islamabad Pakistan. — AFP/File

ISLAMABAD: The Supreme Court on Wednesday dismissed as withdrawn the petition seeking fresh elections annulling recent polls due to “flagrant violations of democratic norms and electoral integrity”.

A three-member bench of the apex court headed by Chief Justice of Pakistan Qazi Faez Isa and comprising Justice Muhammad Ali Mazhar and Justice Musarat Hilali allowed the application for withdrawal of the petition and dismissed the petition as withdrawn with costs of Rs500,000 which are directed to be paid equally to the Pakistan Bar Council and Supreme Court Bar Association within 30 days, failing which they will be recovered from the petitioner as arrears of land revenue.

“We trust that the Government of Pakistan will be ensuring that the petitioner does not use the rank of a Brigadier or Ex or former Brigadier with his name, says the order of the court.

On February 12, Brigadier (retd) Ali Khan had filed a petition in the apex court under Article 184(3) of the Constitution making the Government of Pakistan and chief election commissioner as respondents.

He prayed the apex court to stay the formation of a government based on the contested election results, pending the adjudication of this petition besides praying for immediate holding of fresh elections within 30 days, under the direct supervision and oversight of the judiciary to ensure fairness, transparency, and accountability in the electoral process.

The petitioner also prayed to initiate a thorough and impartial investigation into the acts of alleged pre-poll rigging, election fraud, and misconduct, and hold accountable those responsible for undermining the democratic foundations of the nation.

The notice of Wednesday’s hearing was issued. However, the process server’s report stated that when he went to the given address of the petitioner no one answered the front door when he rang the bell and knocked.

The court noted down in its order that the report also stated that the mobile phone of the petitioner was called but that too was not answered.

“We had kept the matter aside and had asked the office to also contact the petitioner on his given mobile phone, but the same was not answered,” said the court order, adding that whilst usually a petitioner is entitled to withdraw his petition but if a petitioner is to exploit the situation and for publicity, and having achieved this objective seeks to withdraw it without any reason then it is tantamount to the abuse of the process of the apex court.

“This court will safeguard that, such manipulation does not take place. However, before proceeding further let another opportunity be given to the petitioner to be in attendance on the next date of hearing. Notice be served through the normal process as well as through the concerned SHO.

The court noted that the petitioner had described himself as an ex-brigadier, therefore, notice be also served upon him through the Ministry of Defence.

The additional attorney-general stated that the representative of the Ministry of Defence went to deliver the notice at the address of the petitioner on February 20, and according to the Ministry of Defence report, the notice was received by Mrs Amama Sohail, who stated that she was a family member of the petitioner.

The court further noted in its order that notices were also sent through the district and sessions judge, Islamabad, whose report states that the petitioner was not available at the given address.

The report of the SHO of the area states that no one answered the outer door of the petitioner’s residence, therefore, notice was pasted on it; his report along with the photographs of the pasted notice has been received. However, the petitioner did not appear, or represented.

The court noted in its order that the SC Fixation Branch has said that they had received an e-mail dated 19 February 2024, wherein the petitioner stated that “I am EX-Brigadier Ali Khan”, and that he had sought withdrawal of this petition by filing withdrawal application.

“The e-mail confirms that “I don’t want to pursue the said petition anymore”, said the order, adding that the e-mail stated that “I deeply CUO 18/24 3 regret any inconvenience I might have caused to the Supreme Court and seek their pardon for my inability to appear in person as I am currently out of the country.”

“I shall be extremely grateful to the court for their magnanimity and for their kindness.”

Copies of the petitioner’s passport with exit from Pakistan stamp of FIA Immigration dated February 17 2024, boarding pass and e-ticket were provided by the petitioner.

The court noted that the e-ticket showed that he paid Rs162,756 on February 13 for his travel from Islamabad to Doha, Qatar, and for a connecting flight to Bahrain.

The AGP told the court that the petitioner could not refer to himself as an ex-brigadier because he was court martialed by the Pakistan Army for committing sedition, mutiny and insubordination in 2012. He was sentenced to five years rigorous imprisonment and was released after serving out four years of his sentence as he was granted remissions.

The AGP further stated that the petitioner was stripped of his rank, which he can no longer use and the normal benefits which would accrue to a retired officer were not given to him.

The order said that SCBA President Muhammad Shahzad Shaukat was asked to assist the court. He submitted that the given facts and circumstances of the case constitutes abuse of the apex court process, and it should be ensured that this should not take place in future, and, therefore, the petition should be dismissed with exemplary costs of one million rupees.

The petitioner did not disclose the fact of being court martialed and mentions the rank which he held before being court martialed, said the order, adding that he misused the rank which he had previously held in the Pakistan Army which he could not do so.

The court held that the petitioner must have used his rank to attract publicity and to ensure that the contents of his petition are widely broadcast in the media and published in newspapers.

“And after having achieved such purpose, the petitioner immediately bought a ticket to catch a flight out of the country,” said the order, adding that the usual practice is to buy a return ticket, but the petitioner bought a one-way ticket.

The court noted that he also did not disclose when he will return to Pakistan and also did not disclose CUO 18/24 4 the reason for his sudden departure from Pakistan nor why he had to go to Bahrain.

The court noted that it is also not disclosed why, just one day after filing the petition, he sought its withdrawal. It further noted that the petitioner’s conduct demonstrates that he wants to undermine the credibility of constitutional bodies, which is neither in the citizens nor in the country’s interest.

“This petition has also consumed valuable court time, which is to be spent on deciding the cases of genuine litigants; not use the media for ulterior and nefarious purposes,” the order said, adding that the petitioner got prominent coverage and then the petition was abandoned and the petitioner left the country.

The court noted that responsible media will undoubtedly want to disclose this order and the petitioner’s conduct to redress the damage done.

The court allowed the application for withdrawal of the petition and dismissed the petition as withdrawn with costs of Rs500,000.