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Sunday, May 28, 2023  
07 Dhul-Qadah 1444  

President to give Punjab election date, Governor KP date: SC

The apex court announces a 3-2 split judgment

Elections for the dissolved Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and Punjab assemblies will be held in 90 days, the Supreme Court has ruled in a nail-biting end to a swift hearing.

The apex court has annulled President Arif Alvi’s order on the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa election date which he wanted to be held on April 11.

“The court has given a judgement according to the law and said that the president has the power according to the Constitution to set the date,” said Barrister Ali Zafar for the PTI. “The Punjab Assembly election date will be announced by the president. The day he does it, in 90 days, all the authorities, the federal government must provide all the funds, help and security.” As far as the KP election is concerned, the court said that the governor will announce the date in consultation with the ECP immediately.

On Wednesday, the counsel for President Alvi admitted in the court that the president had overstepped the authority of the KP governor when he announced an election date for KP, because the governor had approved the dissolution of the assembly. Punjab’s was a different case as the governor there refused to grant his assent to the dissolution summary moved by the CM.

The president’s counsel said that the president was ready to withdraw his order for KP.

The court has given a split 3-2 ruling, with Justice Mansoor Ali Shah and Justice Jamal Mandokhail writing notes against the majority ruling.

ECP to recommend the date to president

In its order, the court has instructed the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) to recommend an election date to the president, who will announce the date in consultation with the ECP.

The court also said that the election should be held within 90 days to the maximum possible extent.

It said the election date should be announced in view of Sections 57 and 58 of the Election Act.

The court decided some of the critical questions as follows:

  1. Election must be held within 90 days for Punjab and KP assemblies.
  2. If the governor approves the dissolution of the assembly, he/she will also give the election date. Hence, the election date for KP will come from the governor.
  3. If the governor fails to set an election date, the president can.
  4. Governors are bound to play their constitutional role immediately.

This case started when the PTI dissolved the KP and Punjab assemblies on Jan 18 and Jan 14, respectively. They are now ruled by caretaker governments. When the assemblies were dissolved, elections should have been called in 90 days but no one in authority was willing to set a date. A political tussle turned into a constitutional conundrum.

The PTI has been claiming that the interim caretaker set-up and the Election Commission of Pakistan were not setting dates for the new elections. At one point President Arif Alvi unilaterally announced his decision on February 20 that general elections for the assemblies would be held on April 9.

Later, the Supreme Court started proceedings to determine who has the constitutional responsibility and authority to announce a date for elections to a provincial assembly after it was dissolved in different ways. CJP Bandial set up a nine-judge SC bench to consider how and when was the constitutional responsibility of holding elections be discharged.

Chief Justice Umer Ata Bandial had formed a five member bench which reserved its judgment a day earlier. No more delays should take place, he observed.

Earlier on, the court heard arguments by lawyers representing the ruling coalition, as well as the bar councils who have been made a party in the case.

On Fawad Chaudhry and Shireen Mazari arrived at the SC. The hearing took place in Court Room No 1. It was closed till 10:30am. This is the same courtroom where the no-confidence motion cases were heard.

Chief Justice Umat Ata Bandial, Justice Mansoor Ali Shah, Justice Jamal Khan Mandokhel, Justice Munib Akhtar and Justice Mohammad Ali Mazhar heard the case after four other judges recused themselves.

The four judges from the nine-member bench disassociated themselves from the proceedings on Monday. The four judges are Justice, Justice Yahya Afridi, Justice, Justice Athar Minallah, Justice Ijazul Ahsan, and Justice Mazahir Ali Akbar Naqvi.

The reconstituted five-member bench comprises CJP Umar Ata Bandial includes, Justice Jamal Khan Mandokhail, Justice Munib Akhtar, Syed Mansoor Ali Shah, and Justice Muhammad Ali Mazhar.

Timeline of swift SC hearing

Wednesday, February 22, 2023

The chief justice of Pakistan (CJP), Justice Umat Ata Bandial, took suo motu notice on the recommendation of Justice Mazahar Ali Naqvi and Justice Ijazul Ahsan, who were hearing a case on the transfer of Lahore Police Chief Ghulam Dogar.

The CJP formed a nine-member larger bench.

Friday, February 24, 2023

The nine-member bench met for the first time and disagreement surfaced among the honorable judges, with Justice Mando Khel raising objection to the suo motu proceedings.

Monday, February 26, 2023

Four judges from the original nine-member bench, Justice Yahya Afridi, Justice Athar Minallah, Justice Ijaz ul Ahsan and Justice Mazahar Ali Naqvi, recuse themselves from the suo motu proceedings.

The proceedings on Monday saw a written order of the initial proceedings being issued. The order contained notes by four judges Justice Yahya Afridi, Justice Athar Minallah, Justice Ijaz ul Ahsan and Justice Mazahar Ali Naqvi, asking to be recused.

Justice Mansoor Ali Shah wrote an additional note about one member of the bench being mentioned in an audio leak. He wrote that despite the serious accusation, no response had come from the court as an institution.

Tuesday, February 27, 2023

A five-member bench reconstituted by the CJP now hears the case. The court debated whether the president or the governor have the authority to announce an election date.

At the outset of the hearing on Tuesday, Attorney General for Pakistan Barrister Shehzad Ata Elahi stated that he was ready to present arguments. He objected to the exclusion of Supreme Court Bar Association President Abid Zuberi from the previous order, arguing that the court recognizes it as an institution.

To this, the CJP remarked that only when judges sign then it becomes a ruling. “What is written in court is not a court ruling.”

Justice Munib Akhtar remarked that the time limit of ninety days begins with the dissolution of the assembly. He wondered what the reason for wasting time after the dissolution of an assembly.

Justice Mansoor said that the caretaker chief minister could give advice on election dates to the governor or the governor could reject the advice of the interim government.

The remarks made by Chief Justice Umar Ata Bandial on Monday indicated that the proceedings could be completed and a judgment reserved on Tuesday.

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