The PTI announced on Thursday that it would approach the Supreme Court against the Election Commission of Pakistan’s (ECP) decision to put off Punjab Assembly elections by more than five months to October 8.
On Wednesday, in a surprise move, the electoral watchdog put off the Punjab Assembly elections — originally scheduled for April 30 — citing the deteriorating security situation in the country.
In a late-night order, the commission said that after considering the reports, briefing, and material brought before it, it has concluded that it is impossible to hold and organise the elections “honestly, justly, fairly, in a peaceful manner and in accordance with the Constitution and law”.
Therefore, in the exercise of powers conferred upon the ECP by Article 218(3), read with Section 58 and Section 8(c) of the Elections Act, 2017, the commission “hereby withdraws the election programme […] and fresh schedule will be issued in due course of time with the poll date on October 8”, it had said.
Addressing the media on Wednesday alongside PTI’s Asad Umar and Senator Ejaz Chaudhry, Fawad Chaudhry said the entire country wanted Article 6 of the Constitution, which deals with treason, to be invoked against the ECP officials.
“This article has never been imposed on anyone but this time we have found civilians and it will be applied on them,” Fawad said. “This is the first time a sitting civilian government has made a move to subvert the Constitution”.
He expressed the hope that the apex court would rule in the party’s favour.
“The entire nation is ready for elections,” Fawad said, asserting that polls would be held on April 30 “because the Constitution and the SC said so”.
He further said it was imperative for the top court and the public to protect the Constitution, reiterating that the entire public was standing behind the top court.
“I appeal to the judges that saving the Constitution is their job […] You don’t have any other work.”
The PTI leader maintained that the top court was being pressurised through a campaign being carried out against them by the incumbent government.
“But I hope the SC judges will protect the Constitution,” he said. “Millions of people are standing behind the chief Justice of Pakistan (CJP).”
Fawad said the PML-N celebrated all the senior judges when former NA speaker Qasim Suri’s ruling on the no-confidence motion against ex-premier Imran Khan was declared illegal “but now they have a problem with the judges and CJP”.
He also lambasted the law minister saying that “Azam Tarar should change his name to the devil’s advocate”.
Sheikh Rashid calls on SC to take suo motu notice
Separately, Awami Muslim League (AML) leader and PTI ally Sheikh Rashid wrote a letter to CJP Umar Ata Bandial and urged him to take suo moto notice of the delay in polls.
The letter, a copy of which is available with Dawn.com, cited the apex court’s judgment wherein it called for elections to be held within the 90-day limit.
Rashid urged the CJP to “restore the election schedule” and direct the authorities concerned to conduct polls on the date announced previously.
The letter also urged CJP Bandial to remove the caretaker setup in the province and appoint an independent, neutral, and impartial caretaker setup “in the interest of the public, justice, equity, and fair play”.
“It is pertinent to mention herein that it is the responsibility of the ECP to conduct the elections in a free and transparent manner without any corrupt practices whatsoever in terms of Articles 218 (3) of the Constitution,” the letter reads.
The letter said that “the order passed by ECP seems to have been passed by an error or misunderstanding of the situation as none of the stakeholders were even heard before passing such a draconian order”.
ECP delays Punjab polls
In the order issued last night, the ECP said that it convened a meeting with intelligence and security officials from Punjab and KP on March 10 and was apprised about their inability to help the commission in conducting the elections, the possibility of election officials being kidnapped during polls and recommended that elections not be held at the present time.
The order said that on March 14, the ECP was informed that the Pakistan Army would not be available for poll-related duties due to the prevalent security situation.
Referring to these briefings on the overall security situation in the country, the ECP order said that currently, only one security man on average was available per polling station due to a “massive shortfall in police personnel” and the non-provision of army personnel as a static force.
“The commission after considering the reports, briefing and material brought before it, has arrived at the just conclusion that it is not possible to hold and organise the elections honestly, justly, fairly in a peaceful manner and in accordance with the Constitution and the law,” the order read.
Additional input by Rana Bilal