ISLAMABAD: The Election Comm­ission of Pakistan (ECP) on Friday challenged in the Supreme Court the verdict passed by the Islamabad High Court (IHC) a day earlier to lift the ban it had imposed on recruitments in government institutions.

A high court bench presided over by Justice Amir Farooq announced the verdict while a hearing a case referred by the Supreme Court. The bench declared the ECP’s April 11 notification as null and void.

On April 24, the apex court had given the IHC one week to decide whether the ECP’s decision of banning recruitments in government institutions was legal.

A day earlier, the Chief Justice of Pakistan Mian Saqib Nisar had taken suo motu notice of the Commission’s order to stop hiring at all federal, provincial and local government departments to ensure transparency in the upcoming general elections. The ECP had also placed a ban on new development schemes and the transfer of funds from one project to another.

An order passed by the ECP also sought to immediately halt activity in all development schemes approved on or after April 1, excluding gas and water supply schemes as well as construction and road carpeting.

The ECP in its petition filed with the apex court has relied on the judgement of the Supreme Court in the Workers Party case — which held that the ECP has the authority to take pre-emptive measures for countering corrupt practices.

“40. A bare reading of Article 218(3) makes it clear that the Election Commission is charged with the duty to ‘organise’ and ‘conduct the election’. The language of the Article implies that the Election Commission is responsible not only for conducting the election itself, but also for making all necessary arrangements for the said purpose, prior to the Election Day. By conferring such responsibility on the Election Comm­ission, the Constitution ensures that all activities both prior, on and subsequent to Election Day, that are carried out in anticipation thereof, adhere to standards of justness and fairness, are honest, in accordance with the law and free from corrupt practices.”

Additionally, it held that “The Elec­tion Commission may also exercise its powers in anticipation of an ill that may have the effect of rendering the election unfair.”

The commission has also banned transfer of previously allocated development funds to other heads.

An ECP official told Dawn that letters to implement the orders had been sent to all ministries and relevant departments.

In a related development, the ECP has asked political parties to complete all requirements of the Elections Act, 2017 by May 15 to be eligible to qualify for allocation of election symbols.

It referred to Section 215 of the Election Act, dealing with the eligibility of a party to obtain an election symbol.

Published in Dawn, May 12th, 2018

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