The Supreme Court on Wednesday disposed of a plea seeking the February 8 general elections to be declared void and null after the petitioner failed to attend two consecutive hearings.

In an application filed last week, petitioner Ali Khan had urged the apex court to order new elections within 30 days to be held under the direct supervision and oversight of the judiciary “to ensure fairness, transparency and accountability”.

He had also sought a stay order to stop the formation of a new government till the case was decided.

During the previous hearing, the apex court had described the filing of the petition and its subsequent withdrawal as something which amounted to abuse of the court process.

“This court will safeguard that such manipulation does not take place,” Chief Justice of Pakistan (CJP) Qazi Faez Isa had observed after it emerged that the petitioner failed to appear in the court.

Today, a three-member bench — led by CJP Isa and including Justice Muhammad Ali Mazhar and Justice Musarrat Hilali — resumed hearing the petition. However, the applicant was once again absent from the courtroom.

Subsequently, the SC disposed of the plea and imposed a fine of Rs500,000 on the petitioner.

The hearing

At the outset of the hearing, Additional Attorney General (AAG) Amir Rehman informed the SC that a notice had been sent to Ali’s house through the defence ministry. He said the police had also visited his residence but he was not present.

Moreover, the AAG continued, the court’s notice was pasted on the gate of Ali’s house.

On a question regarding the petitioner’s identity, the AAG said Ali was a former brigadier who had been tried in a court martial in 2012.

Meanwhile, the chief justice read aloud an email sent to the top court by the petitioner, wherein he had stated that he was abroad and had requested to withdraw his plea.

“Ali Khan has written that he could not appear before the court as he is abroad. His boarding pass, ticket and all travel documents on departing for Bahrain have been attached in the email,” the top judge noted.

“According to the documents, Ali went to Bahrain by taking a connecting flight via Doha,” Justice Isa added.

Here, PTI leader Shaukat Basra came to the rostrum and said, “I belong to the PTI and want to say something on this case.”

However, CJP Isa directed Basra to return to his seat, noting that Basra was “neither a petitioner nor a counsel”. The court further expressed dismay at the PTI’s leader’s insistence to speak and summoned Supreme Court Bar Association (SCBA) President Shahzad Shaukat to the rostrum.

The chief justice asked Shaukat if a case against Basra should be referred to the SCBA, to which the former replied: “He (Basra) is not related to the case and should be kindly ignored.”

The CJP accepted the SCBA president’s request but warned of action if Basra “speaks about this case after exiting the court”.

The chief justice then went on to say that Ali sent an email to the SC’s fixation branch on February 19 (Monday). “On February 13, he (Ali) went to Doha via Qatar Airways and then to Bahrain,” he noted.

“It is strange that the petitioner filed the plea and then went abroad the next day. Our [fixation] branch has also confirmed that the email was sent by the same person,” Justice Isa remarked.

“He is a strange person; people buy a return ticket due to it being cheaper but he booked a one-way ticket. It seems that Ali Khan has done a publicity stunt by filing a petition before the Supreme Court, “ the CJP said.

The SC later disposed of the plea and imposed a fine on the petitioner.

The petition

The petition had pleaded that the SC should order “a thorough and impartial investigation” into the alleged pre-poll rigging, election fraud, and misconduct and hold accountable those responsible for undermining the democratic foundations of the nation.

While placing his “utmost trust and confidence” in the judiciary, the petitioner implored it to uphold the principles of justice, equality, and democracy and redress the grievances of people over the alleged subversion of their democratic rights.

The elections were marred by gross violations of democratic principles, including the denial of a level-playing field to all political parties, particularly the PTI, the plea had alleged.

It said the imprisonment of PTI founder Imran Khan over “fabricated charges” and the subsequent act of depriving the party of its electoral symbol “sev­er­ely undermined the democratic process”.

In the run-up to the elections, there was widespread pre-poll rigging, with PTI candidates facing numerous obstacles and restrictions in their campaign efforts, the plea had argued.

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 presented its vision and policies.

Despite a significant turnout of voters in support of PTI on election day, the petition had claimed the announcement of results was “unnecessarily delayed” by returning officers, raising serious concerns about the integrity and transparency of the electoral process.

It had added that the subsequent revelation of widespread rigging and manipulation, resulting in the “fraudulent” def­eat of numerous PTI candidates, further undermined the election’s credibility.

The petitioner had pleaded that the consolidation of power by political entities with a history of alleged misgovernance, corruption, and incompetence poses a grave threat to democratic governan­ce and national stability.

Allowing the “perpetrators of electoral malpractice” to ascend to positions of authority not only undermines the will of the people but also jeopardises the future of Pakistan as a functioning democracy.

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