PESHAWAR: The Peshawar High Court has summoned the chief election commissioner (CEC) on Dec 7 to inform it whether it has taken any action against the caretaker Khyber Pakhtunkhwa government for restricting the Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI) from holding public meetings for the upcoming general elections.

A bench consisting of Justice Ijaz Anwar and Justice Syed M Attique Shah declared that the CEC should “explain whether he is alive to the situation prevailing in KP.”

It also asked him to explain if the code of conduct agreed upon by all political parties was followed by the PTI and if that was the case, could Imran’s party be stopped from starting the election campaign or carrying out political activities in any manner?

The bench also directed the province’s chief secretary to appear before it and explain when certain standard operating procedures weredevised for all political parties on its orders, whether such SOPs were applied to one political party only or it was binding for all political parties.

Imran’s party not being allowed to hold public meetings, observes PHC

“After hearing both parties, we find that all major political parties of the country organised their public gatherings in the aftermath of the declaration of the date of general elections be that Pakistan Peoples Party-Parliamentarians, Jamiat Ulema-i-Islam, Jamaat-i-Islami Pakistan or Istehkam Party.

However, the Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf is not allowed and the moment they announce such a public gathering, Section 144 of the CrPC is declared in the respective districts,“ it declared.

The bench added: “We, in our earlier judgement, concluded in clear terms while relying on the constitutional provisions and Section 230 of the Elections Act 2017 that the caretaker government is mandated under the law to perform the day-to-day affairs of the government during the interim period and is supposed to assist the Election Commission of Pakistan to hold free and fair election.

“However, recent happenings show otherwise.”

It issued directives in its order released on Friday regarding proceedings held on Nov 29 regarding the PTI’s pleas against “restrictions” on its election campaign and for permission to hold the workers conventions in Peshawar and other cities of the province.

The bench was hearing a petition filed by senior vice-president of the PTI Sher Afzal Khan Marwat for its directives to the administration to allow the party’s workers convention in Peshawar on Dec 10, and a contempt petition of PTI provincial president Ali Amin Gandapur and two other leaders.

The contempt petition was filed for seeking contempt proceedings against the provincial government and the administration of Mansehra district for not allowing the party to hold a workers’ convention despite the court’s orders of Oct 26.

The petitioners requested the court to initiate proceedings against the relevant officers, including the provincial chief secretary, Mansehra DC and DPO, and others.

During the hearing, Justice Ijaz Anwar had observed that apparently, the caretaker government had overstepped its constitutional mandate, so the court had to ask the ECP about the steps it had taken for ensuring free and fair general elections in the country.

Advocate Sher Afzal Marwat appeared in person, whereas Shah Faisal Uthmankhel, Ali Zaman, Inam Yousafzai and other lawyers showed up in the contempt petition.

Additional deputy commissioner of Peshawar Sania Safi insisted that the application for permission to convene a party convention had reached the office of the provincial capital’s deputy commissioner and that the ban imposed under Section 144 of the CrPC had expired.

She added that the application would be decided by the administration within the period prescribed under the law.

Published in Dawn, December 2nd, 2023

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