The Lahore High Court on Thursday asked the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) and Punjab governor to file replies by tomorrow (Feb 10) in response to a PTI petition seeking the announcement of a date for elections in the province.
The PTI on Jan 27 had approached the LHC, seeking it order the Punjab governor to immediately announce a date of an election in the province since the assembly had been dissolved. The ECP had recommended the elections be held between April 9 and 17.
The petition, filed through PTI General Secretary Asad Umar, stated that more than 10 days had passed since the dissolution of the Punjab Assembly but Governor Rehman had failed to fulfil his constitutional duty of announcing an election date.
Justice Jawad Hassan, who presided over the hearing today, directed the respondents — the Punjab governor and the ECP — to submit their replies to the court by Feb 10.
At the outset of the hearing today, Justice Hassan asked for reasons for the absence of the Punjab governor’s lawyer from the hearing.
PML-N’s Rana Mashhood, who appeared on behalf of the governor’s lawyer Shehzad Shaukat, responded that the counsel was busy in the Supreme Court, hence he could not show up.
PTI legal team was led by Barrister Ali Zafar.
As the proceedings continued, petitioner Asad Umar, who was also present in the courtroom, said a legal crisis might arise if the date for the election in the province was not announced within three days.
Another party leader Fawad Chaudhry voiced similar concerns.
The judge responded that he had no issue with the concerns raised by the petitioners. However, Chaudhry urged the court to announce a verdict on the case by tomorrow in the interest of the public.
“After three days, the constitutional requirement for holding polls in 90 days will be affected,” he told the court.
He claimed that the government did not want to hold elections.
Mashhood interjected, saying “we want to conduct elections, but not one of your choice.”
The PTI leader said the polls must be held as prescribed under the Constitution and not on the desire of anyone.
PTI counsel Barrister Ali Zafar said: “We want an announcement of the election date at the earliest.”
He pointed out that the ECP could announce an election date if the government was delaying it.
He said everyone was admitting the fact that the polls should be held within 90 days “however, no date is being given by those at the helm”.
“If the ECP declines to finalise the election date then the president shall do so,” he added.
The judge said the ECP had not refused to do it. He said it was “ideally the governor who should announce the poll date”.
Meanwhile, Governor Baleeghur Rehman also submitted a reply to an identical petition submitted by citizen Munir Ahmed.
In his reply, he wrote that he had not created any obstacle for the ECP to announce the election date.
“If the governor did not dissolve the assembly on the so-called advice of the chief minister, then it is not the responsibility of the governor to give the date for the polls,” he said.
He urged the court to dismiss the petition along with the imposition of a penalty on the petitioner.
The governor said he was discharging his responsibility under the Constitution.
After hearing arguments, the court directed the ECP and the governor to file replies in response to the petition and adjourned the hearing till Friday (tomorrow).