PESHAWAR: The Peshawar High Court on Thursday asked the Election Commission of Pakistan about when it intended to hold the Senate’s elections in the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province.

A bench consisting of Justice Syed Mohammad Attique Shah and Justice Wiqar Ahmad directed the ECP to respond within three days to a petition against its move to link the Senate polls in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa to the swearing-in of opposition members elected to seats reserved for women and non-Muslims.

It fixed June 6 for the next hearing into the petition of former senator and Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf central leader Azam Swati, who challenged the ECP’s March 28 orders about the possible postponement of Senate polls in the province.

The petitioner had requested the court to order the ECP to hold Senate polls in the province on April 2 as scheduled.

PTI leader Swati insists election postponement is unconstitutional

The petition was filed on March 30 before the ECP’s April 2 orders for the postponement of the Senate polls to the extent of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa until the administration of oaths to MPAs elected to reserved seats.

On March 28, the ECP, in response to the applications of the opposition’s five women MPAs-elect, declared that if the speaker of the provincial assembly failed to comply with the high court’s orders to administer oaths to the lawmakers elected to reserved seats, it would postpone the Senate’s elections in the province until the swearing-in of the applicants.

The ECP put up the polls afterwards.

Counsel for the petitioner Ali Zaman and Ali Azim Afridi argued that the Senate’s polls were conducted across the country, but the ECP postponed the same in KP in light of the high court’s orders for the provincial assembly’s speaker to administer oaths to the members elected to reserved seats.

They added that the orders of the ECP were illegal and unconstitutional.

The lawyers said the petitioner was a contesting candidate, but he was neither heard by the ECP nor was he issued any notice for it.

They argued that the ECP didn’t have the power to postpone the Senate’s elections in the province when they’re held in other parts of the country.

Lawyer for the ECP Mohsin Kamran Siddique informed the bench that presently, two cases about the high court’s orders were pending with the Supreme Court.

He said one of those cases was about the PHC’s decision to dismiss the plea of the Sunni Ittehad Council against the ECP’s March 1 orders to deny that party the national and provincial assembly seats reserved for women and non-Muslims.

Mr Siddique said the apex court had issued a stay order in that case.

He said the second case pertained to the PHC’s orders for the KP Assembly’s speaker to administer oaths to those opposition members and to allow and facilitate their voting in the Senate elections.

The counsel added that in that case, the apex court had not issued any stay orders.

Justice Wiqar Ahmad asked the ECP whether it didn’t intend to hold the Senate’s polls in the province until those cases were decided.

He added that any further delay in polls would affect the rights of the people of the province as they wouldn’t have representation in the Senate.

The bench directed the ECP’s lawyer to consult the relevant officers at the commission about plans to hold those polls and update the bench after the break.

The ECP’s lawyer later informed the court that he had contacted the ECP director-general (law), who insisted that a meeting of the commission would decide about the matter and the court would be informed about it.

The bench adjourned the hearing, asking the ECP to inform it about its intention to hold the Senate’s polls in the province.

Published in Dawn, May 31st, 2024

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