ISLAMABAD: The Supreme Court on Monday described the filing of the petition seeking fresh elections after declaring the Feb 8 elections null and void and then trying to withdraw the same as something which amounts to abuse of the process of the court.

“This court will safeguard that such manipulation does not take place,” observed Chief Justice of Pakistan (CJP) Qazi Faez Isa while dictating an order after finding that the petitioner did not show up in the courtroom when his case was taken up.

The case will again be taken up on Feb 21.

“Is this a joke to file the petition and then disappear,” the CJP wondered, while heading a three-judge bench also comprising Justice Muhammad Ali Mazhar and Justice Musarrat Hilali.

After learning the petitioner is not present in the courtroom, the court ordered the office and the Registrar’s Office to reach out to the petitioner through phone call but the staff informed the court that petitioner’s mobile phone was not responding.

CJP-led bench to pursue case despite application to withdraw petition

The CJP questioned if these petitions are filed for fame since they are shared with the media and then petitioners disappear. He said the court would continue hearing the matter.

Justice Muhammad Ali Mazhar pointed out that the Registrar’s Office had raised objections on the plea.

In its order, the court stated that the constitutional petition was filed on Feb 12, directly in this court in its original jurisdiction under Article 184(3) of the Constitution.

However, prior to its filing, its contents were broadcast on the electronic media and published in newspapers.

The office raised a number of objections questioning the maintainability of the petition and as the matter pertained to the elections, it was fixed in the court to attend to the office objections and if they were overruled to hear the petition, the court order explained. After filing the petition and having availed of the maximum publicity, the petitioner submitted another application, expressing the desire to withdraw the case, it recalled.

The order quoted the process server’s report that when he went to the given address of the petitioner, no one answered the front door. The report also stated the mobile phone of the petitioner on the number mentioned in the petition was called, but that too was not answered.

“We had kept the matter aside and had asked the office to also contact the petitioner on his given mobile phone, but the same was not answered,” the order said.

In his petition, Ali Khan had pleaded to order immediate holding of fresh elections within 30 days, under the direct supervision and oversight of the judiciary, to ensure fairness, transparency and accountability in the electoral process.

It urged the SC to order initiation of a thorough and impartial investigation into the acts of alleged pre-poll rigging, election fraud and misconducts and hold accountable those responsible for undermining the democratic foundations of the nation.

The petition argued that the Feb 8 general elections allegedly were marred by gross violations of democratic principles, including the denial of a level playing field to political parties, particularly the Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf.

The imprisonment of PTI founder lmran Khan on fabricated charges, and the subsequent deprivation of PTl’s electoral symbol severely undermined the democratic process, the petition argued, complaining widespread pre-poll rigging with PTI candidates facing numerous obstacles and restrictions in their campaign efforts.

The ban on rallies and public gatherings for PTI along with the prohibition on campaigning and voter persuasion deprived the party of its fundamental right to engage with the electorate and present its vision and policies, it regretted.

Published in Dawn, February 20th, 2024

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