Lahore High Court directs ECP to announce Punjab Assembly elections immediately

The Lahore High Court (LHC) on Friday directed the Election Commission of Pakistan to declare the date of the Punjab elections as soon as possible.

LHC Justice Jawad Hassan issued the much-anticipated verdict reserved earlier in the day, ruling that the ECP was required to hold polls within 90 days after the assembly’s dissolution and that it should release the election schedule.

The PTI had petitioned the Lahore High Court on January 27 seeking directions for the Punjab governor to promptly announce a date for an election in the province after the assembly was dissolved on January 12. The ECP had suggested holding the polls between April 9 and April 17.

An election must be held within 90 days of the dissolution of an assembly, according to the law.

The suit, submitted through PTI General Secretary Asad Umar, said that more than ten days had gone since the dissolution of the Punjab Assembly, but Governor Rehman had failed to fulfil his constitutional obligation of setting an election date.

During today’s session, Justice Hassan inquired about the chief secretary and inspector general of the Punjab police, stating that they had also been summoned.
The two officials entered the courtroom as the proceedings were beginning.

The IG stated in court that he was unaware of the facts of the case.

“Whatever judgement the ECP makes in this regard, we will implement,” the top cop informed the judge.

The court stated that it was expecting such guarantee from the police head.

The chief secretary also echoed the IG’s position, stating he was also required to follow the ECP and court directives.

The commission’s lawyer objected to the petition’s admission, claiming that it related to an announcement of the poll date, which he claimed was outside the ECP’s jurisdiction.

He contended that the commission could not be included as a respondent in the plea.

According to the counsel, the Lahore High Court has declared that it will not make an order whose implementation is complicated.

He said that the petition had not named the president or the federal government as respondents.

“The police, judiciary, and other institutions have refused to discipline personnel for poll duty. “How can we hold elections under these conditions?” the attorney inquired.

He stated that the election date has to be announced by either the governor or the president. “We need Rs14 billion for the entire election in the province,” the ECP counsel told the court.
He argued that holding polls for provincial legislatures and the lower house on separate days would make them inconvenient.

“It is not stated anywhere in the Constitution that the ECP will set the date for general elections,” he contended.

Shehzad Shaukat, the Punjab governor’s lawyer, stated that he had given a written response to the court on behalf of his client.

In his response yesterday, the governor stated that he was not required to declare a date for the province’s general election because he had not dissolved the provincial legislature on the advice of the chief minister.
The governor stated that he never dissolved the provincial legislature in accordance with Article 112 of the Constitution; hence, the requirements of Articles 105(3) and 224, which deal with the governor’s proclamation of a date for election, would not apply in the instance at hand.

Shaukat had submitted the governor’s response to a petition filed by lawyer Munir Ahmad.

Today, Rehman’s counsel told the judge that the governor was only required to notify the election date if he dissolved the parliament.

He asked the court to dismiss the PTI motion.

According to PTI’s lawyer, Barrister Ali Zafar, the Constitution clearly states that elections must be held within 90 days following the dissolution of the parliament.

Justice Hassan inquired about the criteria for announcing the election date.
According to Barrister Zafar, a notification with the election date must be sent.

PTI leader Fawad Chaudhry said the ECP statement saying it lacked funding to organize polls was “nonsense”.

This statement is frivolous and has the potential to harm the country’s reputation on a global scale, Chaudhry said the court.

PTI’s attorney asked the court to exclude the remark about the inability to obtain funding from the case record.

The court reserved its decision on the petition after hearing arguments from both parties.