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Pakistan Reader# 578, 6 April 2023

ECP fix the date for Punjab elections; Government is apprehensive, while Imran Khan warns if the SC mandate not followed



Elections Commission, Government and Judiciary

Femy Francis

On 5 April, ECP held a meeting and announced the schedule for polls chaired by Chief Election Commissioner Sikandar Sultan Raja. While expressing concerns over being treated like a “punching bag” by the state institutions. This comes after the Supreme Court verdict which ruled the delay in Punjab polls as unconstitutional. Additionally, the ruling coalition's refusal to cooperate with the court mandate, outlining the explicit directions for the polls fails to resolve logistic issues. Uncertainty is observed, whether the required funds and security personnel would be provided by the ruling coalition. Senior officials in ECP expressed that a conspiracy is being hatched with the courts inaction against threats faced by the ECP officials. ECP from 10 April will renew the elections process o appeals against acceptance or rejection of nominations, while the revised list would be published on 18 April. Furthermore, candidates can withdraw nominations by 19 April and would be allotted symbols by 20 April. 

On 5 April, the coalition government met to devise a counter-move against the Supreme Court verdict. PM Shehbaz Sharif stated the order was horrible and that the National Assembly plans to pass a resolution rejecting the verdict. PML-N significant Nawaz Sharif and Maryam Nawaz urged a reference to be filed against the three-member bench, said; “There can be no compromise on the supremacy of Parliament and Constitution.” The meeting also stated that they don't demand a verdict in their favour but request the decision should be an outcome of the full court proceeding. The coalition also upheld the decision by four to three judges over the three to two, stating that they already passed judgment against Suo Motu's cognizance.

On 5 April, Contrarily, PTI has shown delight and support over a three-member bench verdict. Imran Khan in a televised address stated that they would take to the streets if the government hinders the implementation of the court ruling. He said; “The nation should wait for my call to ensure that the incumbent rulers could not run away from holding elections; otherwise, neither the history nor the future generations will pardon this generation for not waging jihad against the forces undermining the rule of law.” He questioned what kind of economic and security stability be ensured by waiting for the election till 8 October, and that only elections can help Pakistan. Imran Khan reiterated that the incumbent government is just scared to compete in elections and for that, they are willing to violate the constitution.

On 6 April, reports The News International on the Supreme Court verdict which further divided the country over issues of constitution and reforms. While dissent and disagreement if part of the justice system, never before has the divide been this public. The Supreme Court Practice and Procedure bill of 2023 if analysed from a legal lens removing the political advocacy shows that it addresses controversial judicial issues. Currently, the credibility of the court is questioned and the only way to reach a resolve if by engaging in the collective wisdom of a full court.
 
References
Iftikhar A. Khan,“ Despite govt defiance, ECP issues Punjab poll schedule,” Dawn, 6 April 2023
Muhammad Anis & Muhammad Saleh Zaafir & News Desk, "Ruling alliance still smarting over SC verdict,” The News International, 6 April 2023
Syed Irfan Raza,“Coalition rejects SC order, vows to put up resistance on all forums,” Dawn, 6 April 2023
Mansoor Malik, “Supporters will take to streets if SC ruling blocked: Imran,” Dawn, 6 April 2023
Editorial,“Time for collective wisdom?,” The News International, 6 April 2023

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