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ISLAMABAD: The Supreme Court (SC) on Monday called on law officers from the federal capital as well as the provinces to assist it in deciding if the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) can ban recruitments in the country ahead of the elections.

Directions were issued to Attorney General Ashtar Ausaf and the advocates general of the four provinces during a hearing of a suo motu notice taken on a recent ban imposed by the ECP on filling vacancies in various government departments.

During Monday’s proceedings, the chief justice said it had come to his notice that ECP had prohibited fresh appointments in government departments, when he had ordered on Sunday that the posts of vice chancellors in three Punjab universities be filled on merit via search committees after the previous vice chancellors were asked to resign immediately.

The chief justice asked which law authorised the ECP to impose such a ban and asked ECP Secretary Babar Yaqoob Fateh Mohammad to explain the commission’s position.

The secretary explained that the commission had taken the decision by invoking Article 218 (3) of the Constitution which imposes a duty on the commission to organise and conduct the elections and to make necessary arrangements to ensure the elections are conducted honestly, justly, fairly and in accordance with the law and that corrupt practices were guarded against.

SC has taken suo motu notice of the ban, saying stopping recruitment s will affect govt working

The chief justice asked if it was mentioned that the commission can also prohibit fresh appointments in government departments.

The secretary then cited the 2012 Workers’ Party case in which SC had clearly directed to adopt measures for ensuring free and impartial elections in the country.

The chief justice asked if such decisions would not create hurdles or affect the working of the government, adding that the court has taken suo motu notice in order to ensure that the election process is not delayed.

The secretary explained the ECP had imposed the ban after a number of complaints were received but the chief justice observed that the provinces had also raised objections on the commission’s decision.

Why should the court not refer the matter to the high court to decide, the chief justice asked.

The secretary recalled that the commission had allowed the federal government recently to go ahead with certain appointments when they had approached for permission.

On April 12, the commission had halted work on all development schemes approved on or after April 1, including but not restricted to gas and water supply schemes and construction and carpeting of roads as well as banned transfer of previously allocated development funds to other heads.

Likewise, a complete ban had also been placed on recruitments in the federal, provincial and local governments with effect from April 1.

The order will, however, not affect the ongoing recruitments being made through the Federal Public Service Commission or the Provincial Public Service Commission.

On April 2, the ECP had barred public office-holders from using public money to promote themselves ahead of the elections.

Published in Dawn, April 24th, 2018