ISLAMABAD: Against the backdrop of allegations of rigged election by Rawalpindi commissioner, Pakistan Bar Council (PBC) demanded an independent commission to probe the charges, with its executive committee chairman describing the move as a malicious attempt to raise a controversy qua the esteemed office of Chief Justice of Pakistan.

The PBC said the legal fraternity was deeply troubled by the ongoing political turmoil in the country, particularly concerning allegations of pre- and post-poll rigging, adding that the integrity and transparency of the electoral process, along with its outcomes, have lost credibility.

It also called upon all political parties and stakeholders aggrieved by the electoral process and allegations of rigging to work towards establishing an independent commission, acceptable to all political parties saying such a commission, free from bias and influence, was crucial to ensuring a fair and transparent electoral process.

The recent allegations and disclosures by the commissioner Rawalpindi have added to the concerns surrounding the electoral process, therefore, the PBC underscores an urgent need for a thorough investigation into these allegations.

Legal fraternity throws its weight behind CJP Isa

The first statement, which was issued after a formal PBC meeting, also reiterated their concerns expressed before the election regarding the performance and credibility of CEC. Regrettably, the concerns were disregarded, by the political parties, which resulted contributing to the current political turmoil, the PBC statement added.

Addressing such concerns in a timely manner (including resignation of chairman ECP) could have averted the present crisis, they said, adding PBC also condemns the coercion faced by independent candidates to align with specific political parties against their will.

In the end, the PBC statement urged all stakeholders to prioritise the restoration of trust in the electoral process and commit to upholding democratic principles for the stability and progress of Pakistan.

Separately, PBC vice chairman and executive committee chairman expressed deep concern over the statement of the Rawalpindi division commissioner, whereby he tried to involve CJP Qazi Faez Isa in the allegations of rigging in election.

According to the statement, the CJP has no concern with the election process, and the bar cannot afford such baseless criticism against him and other judges, as such a “trend will undermine the superior judiciary”.

‘Ulterior motives’

It explained the electoral process was only ECP’s domain, as PBC considers the allegation of the commissioner to be “a malicious attempt to raise a controversy qua the esteemed office of CJP which was not tolerable, in any way”.

Both office-bearers of the PBC demanded all relevant authorities investigate the allegations, which have been levelled without any evidence only to achieve ulterior motives. They reiterated PBC’s previous stance that legal fraternity was standing with CJP Isa and the institution of the judiciary.

The first statement was issued by citing the names of PBC vice chairman Riazat Ali Sahar and executive committee chairman, members Muhammad Ahsan Bhoon, Hafeez-ur-Rehman, Tahir Nasrullah Warriach, Mirza Aziz Akbar Baig, Syed Amjad Shah, Khush Dil Khan, while the second statement was issued on behalf of PBC vice chairman and executive committee chairman.

Asked why separate statements were issued, PBC member Syed Amjad Shah explained both office-bearers enjoy the authority to issue statements without holding a formal meeting in this regard, whereas the first statement was issued after the PBC meeting. Therefore, both statements are valid and legal, he said.

In response to a question, PBC executive committee chairman Farooq H. Naek said ECP had a pivotal role in the elections, which became controversial. Had ECP heard saner voices and held the elections by giving level playing field to every party, such issues would not have emerged, he said.

Published in Dawn, February 18th, 2024

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