Apex court ruling on polls termed ‘constitutional win’

Published March 2, 2023
ISLAMABAD: PTI leaders Shibli Faraz, Fawad Chaudhry, lawyer Ali Zafar and AML’s Sheikh Rashid Ahmed talk to reporters after the Supreme Court’s decision on Wednesday. —Photo by Tanveer Shahzad
ISLAMABAD: PTI leaders Shibli Faraz, Fawad Chaudhry, lawyer Ali Zafar and AML’s Sheikh Rashid Ahmed talk to reporters after the Supreme Court’s decision on Wednesday. —Photo by Tanveer Shahzad

ISLAMABAD: The Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI) leadership was over the moon after a five-member Supreme Court bench directed elections to the provincial assemblies should be held within 90 days — a decision described by the legal community as a victory for the Constitution.

In a 3-2 ruling, the top court held that in situations where a governor dissolved a provincial assembly, the constitutional responsibility of app­ointing a date for the election was to be discharged by the governor.

“In situations where the assembly is not dissolved by order of the governor, the constitutional responsibility of appointing a date for the general election that must follow is to be discharged by the president.”

PTI Senator Ali Zafar, who is also a lawyer, tweeted, “Justice prevails. The Supreme Court has ordered elections in Punjab and KP to be held within 90 days of dissolution.

Sherry asks president to resign; Mazari seeks KP governor’s resignation for ‘breaching’ the Constitution

Similarly, former human rights minister Shireen Mazari stated the decision was a victory for the PTI and the Constitution. She also asked the KP governor, Ghulam Ali, to resign for having been “found in breach of the Constitution”. “The man should have some shame and resign,” she added.

Meanwhile, the PML-N did not appear happy with the verdict. Its leader Ahsan Iqbal in a thinly-veiled tweet after the order said, “History will prove that the characters who have brought Pakistan to this stage by removing the successful PML-N government by rigging and imposing…Imran Niazi in the 2018 elections will be written with the criminals of 1971.”

On the other hand, PPP leader Sherry Rehman demanded an apology from President Arif Alvi, who unilaterally announced the date for elections last week, for purportedly violating the constitutional authority.

“By withdrawing the ‘announcement’ of election dates in Punjab and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, the president proved that he had issued an unconstitutional order,” Senator Rehman claimed.

“Just withdrawing the decision is not enough, the president should apologise for his unconstitutional action,” she said and also referred to Mr Alvi’s decision to disband the National Assembly in April last year on the advice of Imran Khan.

Pildat President Ahmed Bilal Mehboob said the only question to be answered by the ruling was ‘who would fix the date for polls’. “SC order not clear whether president & governor KP are bound by advice of PM and CM respectively regarding the poll date,” he said in a tweet.

‘Clear command of Constitution’

Meanwhile, lawyer Abdul Moiz Jaferii told Geo News that the Constitution was clear about elections within 90 days after the dissolution of assemblies and that there was no ambiguity in this regard. He said a democratic deficit was prevalent, adding that the government was afraid to go to polls because it was afraid of defeat.

Salaar Khan, another lawyer, tweeted: “To the extent that the ECP is to confer with the governor for a date in Punjab, that is clear. But to the extent that, in Punjab, it has to confer with the President, the reasoning should be interesting (the LHC had earlier asked the ECP to confer with the governor).”

He, however, added that the ruling “affirms the clear command of the Constitution” that elections must be held in 90 days.

“Figuring out exactly what the notes of the judges who ‘recused’ meant was conveniently dismissed as irrelevant. But that now arguably means having to grapple with the question of what the majority’s decision really is — a question we really shouldn’t have had to deal with,” he said, adding that the challenge, however, is ensuring that the order is actually enforced.

Published in Dawn, March 2nd, 2023

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