PESHAWAR: The Peshawar High Court on Tuesday gave two days’ time to the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa governor to respond to petitions seeking orders for the latter to fix the date for the provincial assembly’s elections.

A bench consisting of Justice Ishtiaq Ibrahim and Justice Syed Arshad Ali fixed tomorrow (Thursday) for the next hearing into two petitions against a delay in the announcement of the schedule for elections to the provincial assembly, which was dissolved on Jan 18.

The petitions were filed by the Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI) through its secretary general, Asad Umar, and woman lawyer of the party Mashal Azam.

The petitioners requested the court to direct the provincial governor to follow the Constitution by ensuring the holding of polls within 90 days of the dissolution of the assembly.

AG insists PTI’s petitions not maintainable

They also prayed to the court to declare unconstitutional and illegal the governor’s reported assertion that the decision on polls would be made in light of reports of intelligence and other agencies.

When the bench asked provincial advocate general Amir Javed why he didn’t file comments on the petitions on behalf of the governor, he replied that Article 248 of the Constitution granted immunity to the governor, so he was not answerable to any court of law for the exercise of powers and performance of functions of his office.

He contended that the petitions were not maintainable, so they should be rejected.

The bench directed him to mention whatever objection he had to the petitions in the written response for its examination.

The AG said he would file a reply to the petitions on behalf of the governor’s principal secretary.

Senior lawyers Mohammad Muazzam Butt and Shumail Ahmad Butt appeared for the petitioners and said on Jan 17, the then chief minister, Mahmood Khan, had forwarded his advice to the governor for the dissolution of the provincial assembly under Article 112(1) of the Constitution, while the governor ordered the assembly’s dissolution next day with an immediate effect.

They said the ECP, through a letter on Jan 24, told the governor that consequent to the dissolution of the provincial assembly, a general election was to be held in the next 90 days under Article 224(2) of the Constitution.

The counsel said the governor was reminded by the ECP that under Article 105(3) of the Constitution, he was mandated to fix a date, not later than 90 days from the date the assembly was dissolved, for holding the general elections to the assembly, in consultation with the ECP, in terms of Section 57(1) of the Elections Act, 2017.

They said the period of 90 days began on Jan 18, so the polling day should not be taken beyond April 17.

The lawyers said instead of announcing the date for polls, the governor, in a letter to the ECP on Jan 31, had referred to the poor law and order situation in the province and asked the ECP to consult political parties and law-enforcement agencies about the announcement of the election schedule.

They said almost a month had passed after the dissolution of the provincial assembly but the governor was reluctant to fulfil his constitutional obligation.

The counsel said recently, the country’s president, too, asked the ECP to fix a date for holding provincial assembly elections in KP and Punjab.

Over an identical petition of the PTI, the Lahore High Court had ordered the ECP on Feb 10 to immediately announce the date for the Punjab Assembly’s elections after consulting the governor to ensure that electoral exercise is held not later than 90 days as per the mandate of the Constitution.

Published in Dawn, February 15th, 2023

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