ISLAMABAD, Dec 5: A day after releasing an interim order dealing with delimitation of constituencies in Karachi, the Supreme Court asked the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) on Wednesday to carry out a fresh door-to-door verification of voters in the city with the assistance of the army and the Frontier Corps.
“In view of the peculiar security situation in Karachi, such verification must be carried out by the Election Commission with the help and assistance of the Pakistan Army and the FC,” wrote Justice Sheikh Azmat Saeed, a member of a three-judge bench, in a judgment. The bench had on Nov 28 reserved its judgment on the matter.
At the last hearing, the apex court had suggested that the army and the FC should be used to re-launch the verification campaign in Karachi. It was of the opinion that the exercise would also help identify and weed out unscrupulous and criminal elements responsible for the breakdown of law and order in the country’s largest city.
But when the Muttahida Qaumi Movement and the ECP opposed the idea, the court reserved its final word on the question.
The MQM had said it would support it only if the exercise covered the entire country, and not only Karachi.
Meanwhile, ECP Additional Secretary Afzal Khan told Dawn that the commission would meet on Friday in Karachi to discuss a host of issues, including the SC judgment on re-verification of electoral rolls and delimitation of constituencies. He said the verdict would be implemented in letter and spirit.
Headed by Chief Justice Iftikhar Mohammad Chaudhry, the bench had taken up petitions moved by PTI chief Imran Khan, Jamaat-i-Islami chief Munawwar Hassan, PPP’s Jehangir Badar and PML-N’s Irfanullah Khan Marwat complaining that votes of a sizable number of people had been registered in their native towns of Swat, Mingora, Mansehra and Attock, although they have been living in Karachi for 10 to 15 years. In the 24-page verdict, Justice Saeed accepted the fact that free, fair, honest, transparent and just election was the demand of the day as the parliamentary system in the country was strengthening day by day. “Therefore, all eligible citizens have a fundamental right of franchise which must be protected by issuing appropriate directions.”
In the above circumstances, the verdict said, it was clear that electoral rolls of Karachi were required to be revised by the ECP in exercise of powers conferred upon it under Article 219 of the Constitution, read with Electoral Rolls Act of 1974, to achieve the objective.
Under Article 219, the ECP is required to prepare electoral rolls for elections to the national and provincial assemblies and revise the rolls annually, organise and conduct election to the Senate or fill casual vacancies in a house or a provincial assembly and appoint election tribunals.
Citing the judgment in the Karachi law and order case, the ruling recalled that in a situation when there were ‘no-go areas’ in Karachi, police had been politicised (as per statement of the IGP, 30 to 40 per cent workforce of the principal law enforcement agency has been politicised); political parties, barring a few, had militant groups; and life and property of citizens were not protected, the process of preparing electoral rolls or revising them transparently was not possible, as alleged by the petitioners.
“Further, in a situation where life and property of people are not protected, how electors will come forward to cooperate with the staff of election department for such purpose, and there is likelihood of illegalities having taken place,” it added.
The ruling said: “Viewed in this perspective, the discrepancies in the electoral roll of Karachi identified by the petitioners by way of example, examined in conjunction with the admitted position of the ECP that a door-to-door verification of the entire residents of Karachi has not been carried out, lead to the conclusion that the electoral lists do not inspire confidence and the possibility that a significant number of residents of Karachi may have been disenfranchised cannot be ignored.
“An accurate electoral roll is a sine qua non for the holding of a free, fair and transparent election, which is not only the command of the Constitution but also a fundamental right of the citizens, which appears to have been compromised in Karachi.
“Thus, the ECP is directed to carry out proper and complete door-to-door verification in Karachi so as to ensure that no voter is disenfranchised or dislocated and all other discrepancies are rectified as early as possible.”