Strange decisions

Published June 12, 2024

THE ECP continues to wade deeper and deeper into controversy. Through its most recent decision, it had granted major relief to three PML-N candidates whose election victories had been challenged by the PTI’s candidates before an election tribunal. In a show of no-confidence in the Islamabad High Court’s Justice Tariq Mehmood Jehangiri, who had been hearing the cases, the ECP had on Monday transferred the petitions to a new tribunal headed by a retired judge apparently appointed by the Commission days earlier. Then on Tuesday, IHC Chief Justice Aamer Farooq, while hearing a plaint against the ECP decision, ordered the new tribunal to discontinue proceedings till the next hearing while giving the ECP an opportunity to establish sufficient cause as to why it decided to move the petitions from the court of a serving jurist who had been nominated for the task by the IHC chief justice.

It may be recalled that the three PML-N lawmakers who ‘won’ the seats that have been challenged had been repeatedly asked to furnish their Form 45 by the tribunal so that these could be verified against Form 45 issued to other contesting candidates. They failed to do so. Meanwhile, the petitioners, independent observers and even other losing candidates had cast the validity of their ‘victory’ in doubt by pointing to alleged irregularities in election documents. That it gave these three PML-N lawmakers a lifeline in these circumstances raises serious questions about the ECP’s commitment to fairness and justice. This is a department in which, it must be said, the Commission has been found to be consistently lacking. The ECP must resist acting in ways that attract allegations of electoral fraud against it. It must allow all disputes to be resolved through the established process. Its actions and ineptitude have already tainted the election. It must at least let the tribunals function independently and, where necessary, rectify its mistakes.

Published in Dawn, June 12th, 2024

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