ISLAMABAD: The Supreme Court of Pakistan has overturned the Election Commission’s order of March 22 and has directed that elections for the Punjab Assembly be held on May 14.
The court has stated that elections in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and Punjab must be conducted within 90 days, as mandated by the Constitution, and should have been held by April 30, as initially set by the president. However, due to the delay caused by the Election Commission’s order, the new date for the Punjab elections has been set as May 14.
The court has declared the Election Commission’s order of March 22 as unconstitutional and void, stating that it lacked lawful authority and jurisdiction.
The deadline of 90 days would have expired on April 30, and the court has directed that the Punjab elections be held by May 14.
The Supreme Court has also issued a timeline for the Punjab elections, with the election date set as May 14 and the collection of nomination papers by Returning Officers scheduled for April 10.
The court has also instructed the federal government to release Rs 20 billion to the Election Commission by April 10 and submit a report on April 11 regarding the disbursement of funds. The court has further directed the caretaker governments to provide a detailed plan for the elections and sufficient personnel for their organization.
The Election Commission has been instructed to approach the court again if the federal government fails to provide the required assistance. The court has also resolved the matter of the 3:2 or 4:3 ratio, stating that the understanding of the minority judges on this matter was erroneous and not sustainable in law.
This judgment was delivered on a set of petitions filed by the PTI, challenging the Election Commission’s decision to delay elections in Punjab and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa for almost five months. The Supreme Court heard these petitions despite the government’s demand for a full bench of judges to hear the case.
During the proceedings, the attorney general of Pakistan and other government lawyers denied reports of a government boycott of the court. Chief Justice of Pakistan (CJP) Justice Umar Ata Bandial remarked that only the Supreme Court, and not the Election Commission, had the authority to extend the election date.
After the proceedings, PTI’s Ali Zafar stated outside the court that the three-member bench had delivered a historic judgment upholding the constitution. Shah Mahmood Qureshi added that Justice Bandial had followed in the footsteps of Justice Cornelius and buried the doctrine of necessity.
However, Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif described the Supreme Court verdict as a “murder of justice” and addressed the National Assembly, calling it a travesty of justice that came on the day of the “judicial murder” of former PM Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto. Law Minister Azam Nazeer Tarar also condemned the decision and stated that it would deepen the country’s crisis.
The federal cabinet, under Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif, has rejected the verdict and stated that it is not “actionable”, and the cabinet has decided to raise its voice against the decision in parliament.
The Election Commission of Pakistan has called a meeting in Islamabad to discuss how to proceed in light of the Supreme Court’s verdict. Meanwhile, former premier Nawaz Sharif has demanded the filing of a judicial reference against the three Supreme Court judges who fixed May 14 as the election date for the Punjab Assembly.
He has criticized the whole Supreme Court proceedings as a “drama” and alleged that attempts were made to bring a specific person to power. Sharif has also referred to the decision as “double standards” and claimed that he was removed from power for not holding a permit, while others are brought to power despite allegations against them.