ISLAMABAD: Besides fixing July 22 as the date for holding a run-off poll for the election of the Punjab chief minister, the Supreme Court had also directed the Lahore High Court (LHC) to issue detailed reasons within a week about requiring the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) to notify five PTI candidates on reserved seats for women and minorities in the Punjab Assembly.

The SC had also declared that during the interregnum period Hamza Shehbaz will continue serving as the provincial chief executive.

Authored by Justice Ijazul Ahsan and issued on Saturday, the written order on Friday’s hearing by a three-judge Supreme Court bench headed by Chief Justice of Pakistan (CJP) Umar Ata Bandial also directed the ECP to immediately implement the high court order. However, any aggrieved person would have the right to agitate against such a notification before the appropriate forum in accordance with the law.

The order explained that based on the consent of all parties before the apex court, and the assurances obtained from CM Hamza, the poll for the highest office of Punjab under Article 130(4) of the Constitution would be held on July 22 at 4pm at the Punjab Assembly, as suggested by Speaker Parvez Elahi and consented to by the chief minister.

SC’s written order says ECP, state officials should ensure there’s no interference, corruption, harassment during by-polls

The poll session would be chaired by Deputy Speaker Dost Muhammad Mazari and the presiding officer would issue a formal notification convening the session after fulfilling all legal and procedural formalities within a week from Friday.

Until the CM’s election is held, the order stated, Hamza undertook before the court that he and his cabinet will exercise the powers and functions of their offices as envisaged by the Constitution and the law to support the by-elections in Punjab scheduled for July 17 in a free, fair and transparent manner by the ECP.

Any dispute arising out of or relating to the polls will be dealt with by the relevant fora in accordance with the law, the apex court said, adding the ECP as well as all relevant state functionaries, including the lawmakers, ministers, advisers, etc will ensure that all parties follow the election laws as well as the code of conduct issued by the ECP in letter and spirit and refrain from any interference, inducement or influence in the affairs of the executive, local administration, the ECP, etc or indulge in corrupt and illegal practices, the use of state machinery, harassment, intimidation against their opponents or their supporters, etc except to restore law and order.

Similarly, no transfers or postings of local administration officials, police, provincial election commission, etc will be undertaken to ensure fairness and transparency of the election except in accordance with specific provisions of the Elections Act 2017 and the code of conduct to meet emergency situations.

Furthermore, no fresh development schemes and/or financial allocations will be made in the constituencies where the by-elections are to be held till finalisation of the process, the order said, adding that in the event of violation of the elections law, relevant or the code of conduct, the ECP shall take appropriate action, the order said.

The Punjab Assembly speaker has given categoric assurances that all matters relating to the business of the assembly will be handled and dealt with peacefully, impartially and transparently within the assembly chambers and its relevant offices in accordance with the Constitution, the law and rules.

Additionally, all parties, including Hamza Shehbaz, have categorically assured and stated that a peaceful and congenial atmosphere will be maintained not only during the poll, but also the provincial assembly proceedings held thereafter until announcement of the result.

Published in Dawn, July 3rd, 2022

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