ISLAMABAD: The Islamabad High Court (IHC) on Tuesday observed that the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) seems to have wrongly suspended the Prime Minister’s Kissan Package.

The court observed that prima facie the ECP suspended the package without adhering to the required procedure. The ECP was directed to submit details of the meetings it held before the suspension of the package.

A two-member division bench, comprising Justice Noorul Haq N. Qureshi and Justice Aamir Farooq, on Tuesday resumed the hearing of a petition filed by the federal government against the suspension of the package.

On September 29, the ECP suspended the implementation of three components of the Rs341 billion ‘Kissan package’ announced by Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif on September 15.

Attorney General (AG) Salman Aslam Butt contended before the bench that as per section 218 of the election laws, the ECP was required to make a decision on the suspension of the package after consulting the political parties. The AG informed the court that no such consultation was made prior to the suspension of the package.

He argued that the Kissan package was announced a couple of weeks before the ECP released the schedule of the local government elections in Punjab. Therefore, he added, it might not be treated as a bid to influence the local government elections.

Justice Farooq remarked that the package would be beneficial to farmers of other parts of the country whereas the election schedule was issued only for Punjab and Sindh.

The AG stated that the ECP did not even hear the point of view of the relevant ministries and suspended the package after hearing the secretary food security.

Mohammad Arshad, additional director general (legal) ECP, told the court that the judgments of the superior judiciary and election laws empowered the commission to evolve a code of conduct to hold transparent and fair elections.

“One of the laws you are referring to is political parties’ order that requires consultation with political parties,” observed Justice Farooq. “Prima facie, you did not follow the procedure,” remarked Justice Qureshi.

“We have conducted several meetings,” claimed the ECP representative.

“No meeting was held” as the claim has been rebutted by the AG.

“Do you have any minutes of any meeting held in this matter,” asked Justice Qureshi.

The ECP official initially admitted the existence of the minutes but when the court directed him to produce them by 2pm, he replied, “Let me check it with the office.”

He requested the court to adjourn the matter for a couple of days to enable the ECP to engage a counsel. The AG, on the other hand, opposed the adjournment and said in case the ECP needed time the court would stay the suspension of the Kissan package.

The court with the mutual consent adjourned the proceedings till Wednesday (today), directing the ECP to produce the record.

The petition of the federal government stated that the aim of the Kissan relief package was not to affect the local government elections.

Claiming that the issuance and implementation of the package constituted a purely executive function of the federal government, the petition said the package had no nexus with the elections, including the upcoming LG polls in Punjab, Sindh and Islamabad. The Election Commission cannot prevent the federal government from fulfilling its legal and constitutional responsibility, claimed the petition.

It said the package was to be implemented in all the four provinces, including KP and Balochistan, where the local government elections had already been held. The package was announced after consultations with the farming communities and the provincial governments, it added.

Published in Dawn, October 14th , 2015

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