LAHORE: The Punjab Assembly adopted on Sunday a resolution criticising the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) and demanding the chief election commissioner and other members resign to pave way for the formation of an “uncontroversial and acceptable” poll body for fair elections.

The move came a day after a meeting of the Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI) top leadership on Saturday decided to file a reference against CEC Sikandar Sultan Raja for meeting leaders of the Pakistan Democratic Movement (PDM), the coalition that rules at the Centre.

Directives were issued to the Punjab and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa chapters of the party to get the resolutions passed from their respective provincial assemblies against Mr Raja, apparently as part of building pressure on him to step down.

Sources in the ECP said on Saturday it was a matter of routine that political leaders met the CEC but the most number of leaders who had meetings with the CEC belonged to the PTI.

They said just a few weeks ago, PTI vice chairman Shah Mahmood Qureshi had a meeting with the election commissioner that lasted almost one-and-a-half hours.

Calls for formation of ‘uncontroversial’ poll body; official says CEC won’t quit because of PTI’s ‘tactics’; ex-ECP secretary says move by party may warrant legal action

The resolution in the Punjab Assembly was tabled by ruling PTI lawmaker from Khanewal Syed Abbas Shah and was adopted unanimously in the absence of the opposition, which boycotted the session without a formal announcement.

The resolution read: “This house condemns the despicable act of ousting the lawful government of the Tehreek-i-Insaf as a result of an ‘international conspiracy’. This conspiracy has led to uncertainty in the national politics and the fatal blows by the imported government on the national economy have caused a steep price-hike and economic deterioration. This house expresses its grave concerns on this situation.

“This house expects that all political parties in the country will play a responsible role in the current national scenario and thinks that clean and transparent elections are the only solution to steer the country out of this vortex.

“This house, on the basis of undeniable concrete evidence, expresses grave reservations against the incumbent Election Commission of Pakistan and demands that the current chief election commissioner and members of the Election Commission step down immediately so that all political parties may form an acceptable and uncontroversial Election Commission for clean, transparent and fair elections, which is need of the hour.”

When contacted, a senior official of ECP said the PTI had been using delaying tactics during the hearing of the prohibited funding case against it before the scrutiny committee and then the commission, adding it was apparently disturbed after the commission reserved its verdict in the case.

He said that now the fresh disclosure about charity money collected by the PTI from foreigners appeared to have increased its worries. He said the ECP would continue performing its duty under the law without any fear or favour, adding that CEC Raja would never resign because of such “tactics”.

The official said PTI was free to move the Supreme Judicial Council against the CEC, but pointed out that the forum comprising senior judges of superior courts would never decide a reference on the basis of baseless allegations.

He recalled that the name of Sikandar Sultan Raja had been proposed by then prime minister Imran Khan himself.

Former ECP secretary Kanwar Dilshad believes that the MPAs had overstepped their legal bounds by adopting the resolution against the CEC whose status is equal to that of a Supreme Court judge, who could be removed only through a reference to be approved by the Supreme Judicial Council.

The resolution, he said, might warrant a legal action by the ECP as such an act was unheard of in the country’s history.

Mr Dilshad said all those lawmakers who had endorsed the resolution might be disqualified as well as jailed for three years under the legal rights available to the CEC.

No central or Punjab PML-N leader was available for comment on the resolution and the opposition’s boycott of the provincial assembly session.

Iftikhar A. Khan in Islamabad also contributed to this report

Published in Dawn, August 1st, 2022

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