ISLAMABAD: In a major development, Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) Saturday decided to file a disqualification reference in the Supreme Judicial Council (SJC) against Chief Election Commissioner (CEC) Sikandar Sultan Raja for meeting the ruling coalition team, after having reserved the verdict in the PTI foreign funding case.
In this regard, PTI Chairman Imran Khan presided over a meeting to discuss the situation with reference to the Pakistan Democratic Movement (PDM) and other leaders’ meeting with the CEC, where four ECP members were also present on Friday. The story, published in the Financial Times, was also deliberated upon during the PTI meeting. The PTI decided that provincial governments would also take action against the election commission and the provincial assemblies — in Punjab and Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa — would pass no-confidence resolutions against the ECP.
PTI Information Secretary Farrukh Habib later issued a statement and said the party had made preparations for filing a disqualification reference in the SJC against the CEC. He said the CEC met the PDM leaders after having reserved a judgment in the prohibited funding case. “By doing so, the chief election commissioner violated his oath, the code of conduct as well as his constitutional duty,” he charged. He said instructions had been issued to the party’s legal team in this regard.
Earlier, PTI Senior Vice-President Chaudhry Fawad Hussain told a news conference that the CEC met people of the ruling coalition on Friday to discuss the PTI funding case, which he himself admitted. He said the CEC and the ECP members clearly violated the rules, adding that the meeting was a clear violation of the code of conduct of the ECP and the higher judiciary of Pakistan. He wondered how could the Election Commission and its members meet and discuss a case which they had to decide, legally with an opposition party.
Fawad noted that the ECP members and CEC were drawing the same salary as the judges of the high court and Supreme Court respectively, and the incentives are also in accordance with the judges of the higher courts of Pakistan. He continued that in the same manner, their code of conduct also applies like the higher courts; never a high court judge meets and discusses his pending cases with the opposition. He said that by meeting the ruling coalition delegation, the CEC and ECP members committed a serious violation of the code of conduct. The PTI leader contended that the ECP members met one party in the pending case and assured that “we will take a decision, hold a press conference later and also issue a press release”. “We are talking to our legal team on this violation and it is a fit case against the election commissioner and members to send a reference against them to the Supreme Judicial Council and get them dismissed,” he argued.
On the current political situation, he said that the main reason for the crisis in the country today was not holding of elections. When the National assembly deputy speaker’s ruling case came before it, the Supreme Court had a political question before it. He recalled that at that time, the chief election commissioner said they could not hold elections till October, and today the crisis was due to the statement of the Election Commission having refused to hold elections at this time. It is their responsibility to hold elections under the Constitution, he added.
Fawad said Shehbaz Sharif and allies played a role to bring the economy to this position, but the biggest role was played by the Election Commission in this regard. “If elections had been held at that time, a new government would have been installed by now and it would have been in a stable position,” he added. Fawad said that for the first time in Pakistan, there is a federal government which did not have a government in any province. Shehbaz Sharif is the prime minister of the CDA, while the army chief had to talk to the IMF. He added that Shehbaz Sharif could not increase the price of oil himself, in fact there was no federal government present at the moment, he added. He said that closed-door decisions in political parties would no longer be possible; the parliamentary party meeting would have to be re-convened and the parliamentary party would decide how their leader of the House would run and how he would be removed.
However, an senior ECP official said the PTI ministers and leaders had met CEC Sikandar Sultan Raja more than any other political party leadership. Putting the record straight with reference to the charges levelled by the PTI leaders, the official, when contacted, made it clear that all these tactics would not dissuade the Election Commission from performing its functions in accordance with the Constitution and the law.
“Let me tell you with full responsibility and accuracy of the record that representatives of several parties have so far met the chief election commissioner. Several parliamentarians have been coming and holding meetings at the commission. But the ministers and leaders of Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf have met the commission the most so far than other parties,” he pointed out.
He noted that PTI Vice-Chairman Shah Mehmood Qureshi met the CEC for well over an hour a few weeks ago. Recently, Humayun Akhtar of the PTI met the CEC. The ECP official said that during the PTI government’s tenure, a delegation of five ministers met the entire commission, as the post of CEC requires that he meets the party representatives who want to meet him in his office.
“Recently, a large delegation of the PDM met the entire commission, which is a routine issue. Remember, this meeting was held by the delegation not with the chief election commissioner alone but with the entire commission,” he added.
“Neither the commission was influenced by the past government nor will it be now and the foreign funding case judgment will be given on merit and in accordance with the law, no matter how much hue and cry is raised for distraction,” he added.