ISLAMABAD: The Supreme Cou­rt on Thursday asked the ECP to furnish a clear list of PTI’s candidates, who had furnished both the declaration, as well as the party affiliation certificates, along with their nomination papers for the Feb 8 polls.

Justice Yahya Afridi, a member of the full court, asked the ECP to provide such information for clarity due to anomalies which cropped up during the hearing.

Chief Justice of Pakistan (CJP) Qazi Faez Isa heads the full court hearing the Sunni Ittehad Council’s (SIC) appeal against the March 14 Peshawar High Court’s denial of reserved seats to the party.

The CJP observed that a punishment was inflicted on PTI by denying common election symbol of ‘bat’ to them by the ECP after they had failed to hold intra-party elections.

ECP could have given PTI candidates a different symbol, didn’t need to strip them of party identity, Justice Akhtar observes

These candidates did not change their positions at the time of filing of nomination papers, but it was the ECP that changed their position, he observed, adding that ECP had mixed up their affiliation with the allotment of election symbol, therefore, “why should we not treat these candidates as PTI candidates”.

Referring to former president Dr Arif Alvi, the CJP observed that in view of his past record, the ex-president must have sat on any representation moved by the ECP and wondered whether the president had ever used his discretion to announce the election date when he was on record saying that only he had the authority to do so.

The CJP emphasised that ECP cannot write to the president to seek guidance for an individual candidate and reminded that on the last date of the election programme, everything was being done at the level of returning officers.

Sikandar Bashir Mohmand, representing the ECP, contended that the declaration on behalf of a candidate that he belongs to a particular party must match the party affiliation certificate. If they don’t, then the only legally recognised recourse is to consider them independents, he said.

Justice Naeem Akhtar Afghan highlighted that the documents furnished by ECP manifest a “non-serious” attitude of PTI candidates since the documents reveal that out of the 81 candidates, 35 kept the column about party affiliation in the nomination papers blank, adding that while some mentioned PTI, others said ‘independent’ and yet two others stated they would provide the affiliation certificate at the time of allotment of election symbol. Like­wise, 41 said ‘nil’ on the requirement of certificate of the political party, whereas on statutory declaration and affiliation 65 members kept it ‘nil’.

Justice Munib Akhtar emphasised that the solution to ECP’s conundrum was in the invocation of Section 240 of the Elections Act, also explaining that the court was not talking about going to the president for one candidate, rather it was concerned with a major political party.

Since ECP had decided not to give a symbol to the PTI candidates, it should have gone to the president to seek clarification aimed at not eliminating a major political party from the election fray, Justice Akhtar stated.

The ECP should have declared that the candidates may not be given a common election symbol, but they will remain candidates of PTI, he observed, adding should not the caretaker government be neutral, impartial, independent, lovers of democracy and as much defenders of a free, fair and impartial election as the ECP.

The hearing will now resume on Monday.

Published in Dawn, June 28th, 2024

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