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LAHORE: The Lahore High Court on Monday issued notices to the Election Commission of Pakistan and the federal law ministry on a petition challenging unavailability of option “Nota” (none of the above) in the ballot papers for the upcoming general election in the country.

A lawyer filed the petition pleading that the option “none of the above” should be included in the ballot papers as it would enhance the scope of political expression and public confidence in the democratic process.

Lawyer’s counsel Sheraz Zaka argued that to include option of Nota in the ballot papers was a fundamental right of every citizen in consideration of the Article 19-A of the Constitution, which recognised freedom of expression.

He pointed out that countries like India, US, Bangladesh, Spain, Columbia, Russia and Chile provided the Nota option in their electoral system.

He argued that the people who normally did not vote would also be engaged in political process and would also exercise their right to vote. He said the addition of option Nota would ensure credibility, enhance accountability and transparency to the electoral process.

A lawyer appearing on behalf of the ECP opposed the petition pleading that there was no provision in the Election Act 2017, which delineated that the option “none of the above” should also be included.

Justice Shahid Karim directed the ECP counsel to submit a written reply and also issued a notice to the law ministry for June 12.

The judge also appointed former attorney general Salman Aslam Butt amicus curiae (friend of court) to assist the court observing that the matter was of public importance and would enhance public confidence in the electoral process.

Published in Dawn, June 5th, 2018