A two-judge Supreme Court (SC) bench headed by Chief Justice Mian Saqib Nisar on Sunday suspended a Lahore High Court (LHC) ruling ordering the revision of the nomination forms to be submitted by candidates for upcoming general elections.
LHC Judge Ayesha A. Malik had ruled on Friday that the nomination forms do not include mandatory information and declarations required from lawmakers as per the Constitution and law, and ordered the ECP to ensure this information is included in the revised Form A ─ for election to the NA or Senate ─ and Form B ─ a statement of assets and liabilities.
Hours after the LHC judgement was issued, the ECP said it had called an emergency meeting on Saturday to make decisions about improving Forms A and B, and directed returning officers across the country not to receive nomination forms from candidates on Saturday.
The SC today suspended the LHC verdict after hearing appeals filed by the Election Commission of Pakistan and former NA speaker Ayaz Sadiq, after which the ECP immediately notified new dates for the filing of nomination papers and announcement of nominated candidates.
In its appeal, the ECP had said that a date had already been set for the election and to make changes [in the nomination papers] would cause a delay [in the election process].
CJP Nisar, while handing down the order, asserted that the elections would be held on July 25, and "the ECP will be personally responsible if they are postponed".
Sadiq's lawyer had taken a different line, arguing that only parliament has the right to legislate on any matter, including the electoral process.
Information missing from the forms:
- Educational qualifications of the candidate
- Current occupation/job/profession/business of the candidate
- Dual nationality, if any
- National Tax Number/Income tax returns/ and payment of income tax
- Agriculture tax returns and payment of agriculture tax
- Criminal record, if any
- Assets and liabilities of dependents
- Declaration pertaining to election expenses
- Declaration pertaining to any default in loan or government dues by dependents
- Declaration that the candidate will abide by the code of conduct issued by ECP
Following the SC's ruling, the ECP issued a notification 'partially modifying' its earlier notification regarding the election schedule.
According to the new notification, nomination papers must now be filed with ROs between June 4 and June 8, and the names of nominated candidates will be published on June 8. The changes are also applicable to seats reserved for women and minorities in the NA and provincial assemblies.
The initial poll schedule announced by the ECP had said that nomination papers would be filed from June 2-6 and a list of nominated candidates would be published on June 7.
"All the remaining stages shall remain intact and poll will be held on July 25, 2018, as notified earlier," the ECP handout read.
The SC's ruling comes a day after Caretaker Prime Minister retired Justice Nasirul Mulk had directed the Attorney General's Office in the law ministry on Saturday to file an appeal against the LHC decision.
Sources in the law ministry had said that the Attorney General had been asked to file the appeal in the SC as the matter was of an urgent nature.
Soon after taking oath as the seventh caretaker prime minister of Pakistan on Friday morning, Mulk had stated in categorical terms that the elections would be held on time and delay would not be allowed.