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Pakistan Reader# 577, 5 April 2023

Supreme Court’s verdict on Punjab elections creates more questions and criticisms



Supreme Court’s verdict on Punjab elections

Femy Francis

On 4 April, Supreme Court overruled ECP's demand and set 14 May for Punjab elections. The contentious three-member bench headed by CJP Umar Ata Bandial ruled the decree by rejecting ECP proposed date of 8 October. The judgement said, “Neither the Constitu­tion nor the law empowers the commission to extend the date of elections beyond 90 days under Article 224(2) of the Constitution.” Additionally, the verdict listed the need for modification in the election programme owing to ECP’s unlawful withdrawal to conduct them, and that they have to account for the lost time. Furthermore, the Supreme Court directed the federal government to release PKR 21 billion in funds by 10 April to hold elections in Punjab. The Punjab caretaker cabinet is ordered to provide ECP with sufficient personnel for elections by 10 April.
 
PTI hailed the Supreme Court verdict and called for celebrations. Imran Khan's late-night address stated, “Its decisions are protected by the nation,” and announced that today he stands vindicated. The PTI Vice Chairman Shah Mahmood Qureshi stressed that ECP should conduct elections as the apex court removed all pressure and provided resources. He further praised CJP saying, “Justice Bandial has become People’s Chief Justice today... he stood tall against immense pressure and rejected all illegal demands and proved a man of substance … Nation Salutes SC.”
 
Contrastingly, the decree garnered major criticism from the ruling coalition where PM Shehbaz Sharif called the verdict “Judicial Murder.” PML-N Maryam Nawaz Sharif criticised the verdict as a conspiracy of rewriting the constitution aiming to hand over Punjab to their “Blue eyed Imran Khan on a plate.” She further said, “A majority of the Supreme Court has revolted against this appalling and brazen facilitation and one-man show. It’s time that the parliament stop this facilitation with its constitutional and legal powers.” When warned about the consequences of her statements leading to contempt of court and disqualification, she stated, “So be it!”

The ruling coalition outright refused to accept the verdict and demand a full court to hear over the issue. Jamiat Ulema-i-Islam (JUI-F) leader Asad Mehmood criticising said, “We will not let this illegitimate and un-Islamic decision get implemented in Pakistan, come what may. We will fight till last as far as Constitution and the law permit us.” PTI dissident Raja Riaz called the 4 April verdict a “Black Day.” The legislature and executive refused to accept the judgement as  Shehbaz Sharif called it a “murder of justice.”
 
References
Nasir Iqbal, “SC overrules ECP, wants Punjab to vote on May 14,” Dawn, 5 April 2023
Ali Raza & Asim Yasin & Faizan Bangash & Muhammad Anis & Murtaza Ali Shah & Sohail Khan, “Undeterred, SC orders Punjab polls on May 14,” The News International, 5 April 2023
Ikram Junaidi, Ahmad Fraz Khan, “ ‘Gleeful’ PTI calls for celebration after SC order,” Dawn, 5 April 2023
Maryam fires salvo at SC verdict,” Dawn, 5 April 2023
Amir Wasim, Syed Irfan Raza, “Govt vows not to let CJP have his way,” Dawn, 5 April 2023

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