ISLAMABAD: The Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) on Monday approached the Supreme Court (SC) to seek a direction for President Dr Arif Alvi to announce a date for holding the general elections within 90 days of the dissolution of the National Assembly.

Filed by Secretary General PTI Omar Ayub, the petition has also requested the apex court to order the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) to issue an election schedule accordingly, besides the governors of Sindh, Balochistan, the Punjab and the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa be directed to announce the date of elections within 90 days of the dissolution of the respective assemblies or in accordance with the SC judgement in the Punjab assembly election case.

Moved through Advocate Syed Ali Zafar, the petitioner pleaded that the Aug 5 decision of the Council of Common Interest (CCI), in which the digital census was approved, should be declared illegal, unlawful, and void ab initio by the SC, besides the notification by the Bureau of Statistics on Aug 8, in which the 2023 census was published, should also be declared to be illegal, unlawful, and void ab initio.

The petition contended that the present petition under Article 184(3) of the Constitution involves an issue of public importance and was for the enforcement of fundamental rights conferred by Chapter 1 of Part II of the Constitution.

Challenges legality of Aug 5 CCI decision and Aug 8 census notification; urges provincial governors to give election dates that fall within 90-day limit

The petition argued that the delimitation exercise proposed to be undertaken by the ECP on Aug 17 should also be declared illegal, unlawful, and void ab initio, besides Section 57(1) of the Election Act, 2017, providing that the date of elections to be fixed by the ECP may be declared to be ultra vires of the Constitution and being contrary to articles 48(5)(a), 58(1), 105(3)(a), 112(1), and 224 of the Constitution.

These provisions explain that the president or governor was to set the date of elections after dissolution of the assemblies by them on the advice of the prime minister or chief minister.

The petition also stated that Section 17(2) of the Election Act, 2017, should also be declared to be illegal and ultra vires the Constitution since this provisions allows the ECP to contravene the Constitutionally mandated 90 days under the pretext of delimitations since it was not sustainable under the law.

It is an unfortunate fact that unless the decision being challenges is set aside, elections will not be carried out within the timeframe, in violation of the mandatory provision of Article 224(2) of the Constitution, and Pakistan will be faced with yet another constitutional crisis, the petition feared.

This decision is a grave threat to democracy and the rule of law, and will only serve to disenfranchise the Pakistani citizens by violating articles 4, 5, 6, 9, 17, 51 and 224 of the Constitution, the petition said.

The requirement of delimitation on the basis of census in respect of the provincial assemblies is a statutory requirement, under the Election Act, and there is no requirement under the Constitution for allocation of seats in provincial assemblies on the basis of the last preceding published census.

Thus, in relation to the provincial assemblies, there is no constitutional requirement of fresh delimitation on the basis of these decisions, and if a statutory requirement of delimitation (under Section 17(2) of the Election Act, 2017), which requires a statutory period of four months, violates the mandatory limitation of 90 days under Article 224(2).

It is pertinent to highlight that the instant constitutional crisis and deadlock have been created solely as a result of these decision of Aug 5, and it appeared to be a malafide exercise to delay the elections, the petition argued.

Published in Dawn, August 29th, 2023

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