PESHAWAR: The Elec­t­ion Commission of Pakis­tan filed a review plea in the Pes­h­awar High Court (PHC) on Saturday against its order that suspended the ECP’s dec­laration of PTI’s intra-party polls as void and the re­vocation of its election symbol.

ECP’s counsel, Mohsin Kam­ran Siddique, filed two applications in the high court.

In one application, the ECP has requested the high court to accept its plea and recall the interim relief granted to the petitioners (PTI leaders) by a single-member bench on Dec 26. In the other, the commission has sought the formation of a two-member special bench to hear the matter.

Earlier, erstwhile PTI chairman Barrister Gohar Ali and six other leaders challenged the ECP’s Dec 22 verdict as lacking jurisdiction.

Justice Kamran Hayat Miankhel of the PHC then ordered a temporary suspension of the ECP’s decision, instructing the commission to publish PTI’s intra-party poll certificate on its website and restore the party’s election symbol. This order is set to remain effective until Jan 9, 2024.

Now, the ECP has argued in its application that the writ petition of the PTI came up for hearing before the high court on Dec 26 and the court passed an interim order without issuing notice to the ECP.

“The petitioners have sought interim relief for the suspension of the order of the commission dated Dec 22, 2023, as well as for publication of intra-party polls certificate on the commission’s website along with restoration of party symbol (bat). That the interim order referred herein above, in fact, decides the whole writ petition which amounts to granting of final relief,” the ECP said.

“That under Article 199 of the Constitution of the Islamic Republic of Pakistan, the High Court of a province is empowered to make an order directing a person performing within its territorial jurisdiction. The election symbol of the petitioner is to be allocated across the country, hence without conceding the impugned order, the same has prima facie been passed beyond the territorial jurisdiction of this Hon’ble Court,” it said.

The ECP also argues that issues raised in the PTI’s writ petition are exclusively within the commission’s purview and generally not subject to judicial review under Article 199.

“Even otherwise it is settled law that disputed questions of facts cannot be resolved while exercising jurisdiction under Article 199 of the Constitution. The Constitution unambiguously vests the powers and jurisdiction in the commission to make factual determinations in regard to the subject matter of the writ petition,” the ECP added.

The commission also cites a notable Supreme Court judgement in the “Workers Party Pakistan vs Federation” case, which mandates strict adherence to election laws and rules by the ECP as part of its constitutional duties under Article 218(3) of the Constitution and the Representation of Peoples Act.

This appeal comes amid preparations for the Feb 8 elections, with the last date for election symbol allotment set for Jan 13. The PHC’s order was notably influenced by the urgency of the situation and the potential disenfranchisement of PTI voters.

Published in Dawn, December 31st, 2023

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