The PTI on Thursday demanded that Chief Election Commissioner (CEC) Sikandar Sultan Raja should be held accountable for his “criminal deviation” from the Constitution for not holding polls in the country within 90 days after the dissolution of the assemblies.
The party also lashed out at the CEC for refusing to meet President Arif Alvi earlier in August to finalise the date for the general elections, citing amendments to the Election Act, 2017.
Former premier Shehbaz Sharif dissolved the National Assembly on August 9 — three days before the lower house of parliament was scheduled to complete its five-year tenure.
The Constitution provides that if the assembly completes its tenure, elections will be held in 60 days, but in the case of premature dissolution — which happened on August 9 — this period is extended till 90 days.
The Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP), instead of giving a definite date, announced that the polls would be held at the end of January 2024.
In August, the CEC refused to meet President Alvi after the latter wrote him a letter, inviting him to finalise the polls date.
Raja maintained that after the Elections Act (Amendment) Bill, 2023 was enacted into law, announcing the date for polls was the sole prerogative of the ECP.
Writing back to him, Raja declined the request, saying that the meeting would be of no use.
On Thursday, the CEC met President Alvi on the directives of the Supreme Court at the Aiwan-e-Sadr, where they both agreed that elections across the country should be held on February 8.
In a statement, PTI Central Information Secretary Raoof Hasan said the SC ordering the CEC to meet the president to decide the date of elections was a welcome move, but “not enough”.
The party sought an apology from the CEC to Alvi and the nation for “violating” the sanctity of the constitutional position of the president.
The PTI also demanded that Raja should apologise for “committing serious crimes” against the Constitution and democracy.
The statement read that during the last 18 months, the CEC had committed the “grave crime of violating the Constitution” at least four times.
It added that as the CEC, Raja “opposed” the holding of fair elections and turned the ECP into a “key instrument” of “subverting the Constitution”.
Hasan further maintained that after the resignation of the PTI MNAs, the CEC “criminally avoided” by-elections in more than 125 constituencies, depriving millions of people from their basic constitutional and democratic right of representation.
In the statement, the PTI observed that the top court Thursday’s order had “verified” the “criminal character” of the CEC.
The PPP also complained why the ECP had not met with the president earlier and only did so when ordered by the SC.
The party’s information secretary, Shazia Marri, told The Express Tribune that the ECP should have announced the elections date earlier.
She noted that every institution’s role was defined in the Constitution and the court should not have been compelled to intervene to make the ECP give a date for the polls.
Marri maintained that the ECP did not do its work and that was why the SC intervened. Nevertheless, the PPP leader, while expressing her respect for the judiciary, said that a wrong precedent had been set and it always took time to correct such measures.
“The PPP believes the ECP should’ve have announced the polls’ date as its mandate,” she said. “By announcing the date [after a court order] the ECP has eroded its powers,” she added.
The PPP information secretary welcomed the decision, but demanded that the polls schedule should be issued immediately so that the parties could start their electoral campaign. However, she noted that it should not be forgotten how some people were confidently saying that elections would be held in February right after the National Assembly was dissolved.
The PPP leader said the SC’s intervention had ended the tussle between the president and ECP, but the key issue here was that the Constitution had already been violated by not holding the polls within the 90-day constitutional limit.
PPP leader Nayyar Bukhari, while speaking to a private news channel, said unelected individuals or cabinets did not have the right to rule the country.
Bukhari highlighted that the ECP was answerable to the people and SC for not holding elections within 90 days of the dissolution of the assemblies.
Terming it a positive development, the PML-N welcomed the announcement of the elections date, saying the process to conduct the polls had begun.
PML-N Information Secretary Marriyum Aurangzeb said her party was the only one that was ready for elections.
“We are the first one to invite applications from November 1, form an election cell, manifesto committee and parliamentary boards,” she added.
PML-N leader Irfan Siddiqui, while talking to private TV channel, noted that the development would ensure stability in the country.
MQM-P’s Rabita Committee member and former federal minister Aminul Haque welcomed the decision, saying that free, fair and transparent elections were need of the hour.
He added that there was ample time available to ensure fair elections. Haque also demanded that all political parties should be provided with a level-playing field.
The Jamaat-e-Islami also welcomed the announcement of the polls date, while demanding the apex court to take action against those responsible for its delay.
Ahad Cheema acquitted in NAB reference
An accountability court on Friday acquitted Ahad Cheema, the special assistant to the caretaker prime minister, in assets beyond means reference filed by the National Accountability Bureau (NAB).
Accountability Judge Ali Zulqarnain had reserved the ruling on the acquittal plea after hearing arguments of the NAB prosecutor and the defence counsel earlier in the day. Cheema also appeared before the court during the proceedings.
On Nov 27, in a supplementary report, NAB informed the court that Cheema’s assets were consistent with his known income, asserting that properties held by alleged benamidars/relatives were not his. Based on evidence, the case under NAO, 1999, was not substantiated, it added.
Cheema had served as the Lahore Development Authority (LDA) director general during the PML-N government in Punjab. The bureau had arrested Cheema in 2018 when he appeared before a joint investigation team in connection with the Ashiana-e-Iqbal Housing Scheme case.
Later, NAB initiated assets beyond means and other inquiries against him. However, Cheema obtained bail in three cases, including assets beyond means case in 2021.
Bilawal consults legal minds on ZAB reference
Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) Chairman Bilawal Bhutto Zardari on Friday consulted legal minds of his party on the presidential reference case of his late grandfather, Zulfikar Ali Bhutto.
The development came during a meeting of central and provincial officials as well as legal experts of the Peoples Lawyers Forum (PLF) at Zardari House here. Bilawal chaired the meeting.
During the meeting, the PLF officials briefed Bilawal on the presidential reference case of ZAB. Farooq H Naik and Shahadat Awan participated in the meeting through video link while Qazi Bashir, Bahram Khan Tareen, Raheel Kamran Cheema, Sajid Tanoli, Gohar Rehman Khattak, Ghiyasul Haque and Asrar Abbasi were present.
Syed Nayyar Hussain Bokhari, Faisal Karim Kundi, Raza Rabbani and Amna Paracha were also present in the meeting.
Meanwhile, a civil society delegation also met with Bilawal and discussed the challenges faced by the masses and their solutions.
Bilawal appreciated the delegation for their services and performance in their respective fields.
Ahmed Faraz Khan Advocate, Barrister Saifullah Ghori, Bilal Tariq Khan, Dr Abdul Mohiman, Dr Maria Hamid, Dr Salma Malik, Faheem Sardar, Hafiz Muhammad Tahir, Huma Fawad, Jahanzeb Durrani and Kanwal Malik were among those who met the PPP chairman.
Lubna Bhayat, SM Tariq, Javed Akhtar, Pir Mohammad Anwar, Junaid, Raja Mohammad Khan, Sania Kamran, Shehbaz Zaheer, Shamamata Al Ambararbab, Buland Sohail, Kashaf Ahmed, Talha Rahmani, Osama Malik, Usman Iqbal Bandal and Yusuf Masih were part of the delegation. PPP Information Secretary Faisal Karim Kundi was also present on this occasion.
SC to take up appeals against military trial verdict on Dec 13
The Supreme Court is set to take up high-profile cases in the coming week, including the appeals against its verdict in the trial of civilians in military courts and pleas filed by Justice Sayyed Mazahar Ali Akbar Naqvi.
A Supreme Court larger bench will hear on Dec 13 the intra-court appeals against its judgment in the case of civilians being tried in military courts. The appeals have been filed by the caretaker governments and the defence ministry.
On Oct 23, a five-judge bench of the SC unanimously declared the trial of civilians in military courts as null and void and ordered that the 103 accused in cases relating to the violence on May 9 and 10 be tried under ordinary criminal laws.
Moreover, Justice Naqvi, who is facing complaints of misconduct, recently wrote a letter to the top court’s three senior-most judges’ panel to point out the silence over his petitions challenging the issuance of a show-cause notice to him by the Supreme Judicial Council (SJC) despite the lapse of time as stipulated in the SC (Practice & Procedure) Act, 2023.
A three-judge bench, comprising Justice Aminuddin Khan, Justice Jamal Khan Mandokhail and Justice Musarrat Hilali, will hear his petitions on December 15.
A nine-member larger bench of the apex court led by Chief Justice of Pakistan Qazi Faez Isa will take up a presidential reference for revisiting the judgment wherein the death sentence of PPP founder and former premier Zulfikar Ali Bhutto was endorsed.
The bench will conduct its proceedings in courtroom No. 1 on December 12. These decisions were made by the SC three-member committee comprising CJP Isa, Justice Sardar Tariq Masood and Justice Ijazul Ahsan.
The other high-profile cases that will be tackled by the SC in the coming week include the evacuation of illegal Afghan residents, reclassification of commercial land in Karachi, and reinstatement of the FIR against PTI leader Moonis Elahi.
The top court has scheduled the hearing for petitions challenging the evacuation of foreign nationals, especially Afghan citizens, residing unlawfully in the country.
A three-judge bench, comprising Justice Masood, Justice Yahya Afridi and Justice Ayesha Malik, will hear these pleas on December 12.
Farhatullah Babar, Mushtaq Ahmed, Amina Masood Janjua, Mohsin Dawar, Jibran Nasir, Syed Muaz Shah, Pastor Ghazala Parveen, Imaan Zainab Mazari, Ahmad Shabbar, Advocate Imran Shafiq, Luke Victor, Sijal Shafiq, and Rohail Kasi are contesting the evacuation orders.
In a separate case, the dismissal of a Federal Investigation Agency (FIA) case against PTI’s Moonis by a special judge in Lahore and then the upholding of that decision by the Lahore High Court, has been challenged in the SC.
The FIA has filed an appeal against the dismissal, leading to a review in the apex court.
Moreover, the SC, previously deliberating on the powers of the caretaker government, directed the attorney general for Pakistan (AGP) to assist the court in forming a larger bench to interpret its authority.
In addition, review petitions challenging the decision on the reclassification of land in Karachi to commercial status will be heard in the coming week as well. A three-judge bench, led by Justice Ahsan, is scheduled to hear the matter on December 11.
The court has issued notices to all relevant parties, including the Sindh government, following its earlier ruling invalidating the conversion of public land into residential and commercial categories.
These petitions stem from a challenge initiated in 2010 by former Karachi nazim Niamatullah Khan against the alteration of public land’s categorisation.
A five-judge bench, led by CJP Isa, will also take up on December 14 former Islamabad High Court judge Shaukat Aziz Siddiqui’s petition against his removal.
It is expected that the proceedings of both Bhutto and the ex-IHC judge’s cases will be available on the SC website.
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