June 19, 2024

Pakistan’s Supreme Court has declared that the country’s poll panel’s decision to delay the assembly elections in two provinces is unconstitutional. The top court has ordered the government to hold snap polls in the most populous province of Punjab on May 14, following a petition filed by the main opposition Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) party, led by former Prime Minister Imran Khan. The PTI had challenged the Election Commission of Pakistan’s (ECP) decision to delay the Punjab polls from April 30 to October 8, after the government refused to give funds to conduct the exercise citing the economic crisis. The Supreme Court said the ECP exceeded its jurisdiction by delaying the Punjab election date, and the constitution does not give it the authority to postpone elections.

Pakistan historically holds the national and provincial elections together. However, the ECP is also bound by the constitution to hold elections within 90 days of the dissolution of a legislative assembly. But when the ECP refused to announce dates for the polls, the Supreme Court in February took a suo motu notice and ordered the poll panel to announce the schedule for elections in the two provinces. Last month, the ECP announced the Punjab elections on April 30. On March 22, however, it withdrew the schedule and declared October 8 as the new date, forcing the PTI to move the top court. On holding the polls in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province, the top court said a petition should be filed at an appropriate forum.

The top court’s verdict came amid an ongoing tussle between the judiciary and the government, which last week passed a new law to curtail the powers of the Supreme Court’s chief justice. Several government officials also publicly raised doubts about the fairness of the top court, expressing their “lack of confidence” in the three-member bench hearing the PTI case after two other judges quit. In response, Foreign Minister Bilawal Bhutto-Zardari said the country could face a serious crisis if the top court did not constitute a larger bench.

Source: Aljazeera

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