The Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) and President Dr Arif Alvi on Thursday agreed that general elections in the country would be held on February 8 following Chief Justice of Pakistan Qazi Faez Isa’s directives to the electoral body earlier in the day to confer with him on the polls date.
An ECP team, led by Chief Election Commissioner Sikandar Sultan Raja, met with the president at the Aiwan-e-Sadr in Islamabad after Attorney General for Pakistan (AGP) Mansoor Usman Awan called on him.
On today’s order of the Supreme Court of Pakistan, the Chief Election Commissioner of Pakistan, Mr. Sikandar Sultan Raja, along with the Attorney General for Pakistan, Mr. Mansoor Usman Awan, and four members of the Election Commission of Pakistan, came to meet pic.twitter.com/1uXi7v7Y7N
— The President of Pakistan (@PresOfPakistan) November 2, 2023
Earlier on Thursday, the commission told the Supreme Court that the general elections in the country would be held on February 11 but the CJP told it to ensure that the president was on board with the decision.
A three-judge bench comprising the CJP, Justice Aminuddin Khan and Justice Athar Minallah were hearing the petitions calling for holding the polls within 90 days after the dissolution of the legislatures in the country.
“Let the ECP meet with the President of Pakistan today and the date for holding general elections in Pakistan be appointed,” the CJP wrote in an order.
“In this regard, the Attorney-General for Pakistan will arrange [this] meeting and shall provide to the president this court’s order of 23 October 2023 and today’s order, and be available to render assistance,” it added.
“We expect that the matter of appointing a date for holding general elections shall be settled, and this court will be informed tomorrow, that is, November 3, 2023 [Friday],” it concluded.
On October 23, the SC issued notices to the ECP and Federation, noting that they could fix the date of election within 10 days and adjourned the hearing till November 2 (Thursday).
During the court proceedings, the CJP remarked that the final date for the elections would be announced from the SC.
He pointed out that this was a strange case wherein everybody was “happy”.
The top judge added that the political parties should go to the public with their manifestos and the latter would vote for the one they preferred.
Justice Minallah noted that prima facie, the government, ECP and president were responsible for the delay in the elections.
He continued that the elections should be held on their scheduled time and no action had been taken against anyone for violating the Constitution.
Sajeel Swati, the ECP lawyer, told the court that the process of delimitation was under way and it would conclude on November 30, the order read.
He added that the final result of the delimitation would be published by December 5, 2023.
“Thereafter, the election programme is to be announced in terms of section 57(2) of the Elections Act, 2017, which provides certain timeframes and will conclude on 29 January 2024,” the order quoted him as saying.
The order further read that the ECP lawyer said to maximise public participation, elections should ideally be held on a Sunday. He added that the first Sunday after the timeframe would be February 4, 2024. “However, to enable political parties to convey their respective programmes and manifestos, it would be appropriate to hold elections on Sunday, 11 February, 2024,” the order further quoted the lawyer as informing the court.
The CJP asked Swati if the president was taken on board in connection with the polls date. The ECP lawyer replied that the commission was not bound to take the president on board.
Irked by this response, the top judge pointed out that both the president and ECP were Pakistanis. He inquired why the ECP was reluctant to consult with Alvi. He then ordered the commission to confer with the president on the elections date.
After a half an hour break in the hearing, Swati told the court that the ECP would consult with the president later in the day.
Later while dictating the written order, the top judge remarked that the election date given would have to be implemented.
“The SC wants elections to be held without any arguments,” he added, pointing out that the court only wanted a solution to the problem without any technicalities.
“The final date for polls will be announced from the Supreme Court,” CJP Isa announced.
He continued that after the current case, no more pleas about any delay in the polls would be taken up. The hearing was then adjourned till Friday (today).
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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