SC adjourns hearing on ECP plea in Punjab polls case for one week

ISLAMABAD, May 15: Chief Justice of Pakistan (CJP) Umar Ata Bandial on Monday urged the federal government and the opposition to resume dialogue for restoring peace in the country as the apex court adjourned for one week the hearing on the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) plea regarding the Punjab polls case.

A three-judge bench, led by CJP Bandial and comprising Justice Ijazul Ahsan and Justice Munib Akhtar, heard the matter as the May 14 deadline set by the apex court for holding the polls expired.

At the outset of the hearing, the top court’s secretary appeared before the court and stated that the Supreme Court Bar, and advocates were in support of “and express full solidarity with the judiciary”.

Chief Justice Bandial maintained that the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) had not adopted its current position earlier, and questioned if points not raised earlier could be presented during the ongoing hearing.

He remarked that it would “be appropriate” for someone else to raise those points as the electoral watchdog did not bring forth the issue of judicial jurisdiction. He continued that the federal government could have raised the matter but did not file a revision.

The court issued notices at the request of the ECP.

The Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf’s (PTI) lawyer said that the scope of the review was “limited”.

PTI’s counsel Ali Zafar contended that new points could not be raised in the revision petition. However, CJP Bandial stated that if the petition was “admissible” then the court wanted to hear the stance of the ECP.

Justice Bandial continued that provincial governments and other political parties will be issued notices and be heard in the matter. He added that some points were for consideration and would be decided on later.

The ECP’s counsel Advocate Sharjeel Swati countered that the scope of revision was not limited and jurisdiction could not be limited in constitutional cases.

The CJP reminded him that new points could not be raised in the review.

Ali Zafar stated that May 14 – the date for Punjab polls – had passed and the Constitution had “died”. He said that the caretaker governments were not “unconstitutional” and the court should follow its decision.

The chief justice said the decision would be implemented after it was finalized.

The chief justice stated that the election commission’s stance was that it would conduct elections if given the resources. He continued that the ECP had now opened the “Pandora’s Box”.

“The implementation of the Constitution is my duty. Who will implement the Constitution in the current environment?” he asked.

Justice Bandial maintained that he had asked the government and the opposition to find high moral standards. He added that a party was “violating” the Constitution in February.

Further hearing of the case was adjourned till next week.

PTI lawyer Ali Zafar argued that one week was “too much”, however, the CJP stated that the court had another “important matter” tomorrow”.

According to Justice Bandial, the court would have hurried if it knew that election time had come. He added that the manner in which political forces were working was “not right”.

“People are losing their lives. Institutions are under threats. People’s private and public property is being damaged,” he stated.

He then questioned why the Attorney General for Pakistan (AGP) Mansoor Awan did not restore the negotiations, to which Ali Zafar said that two members of the negotiation team had been arrested.

The PTI lawyer continued that all PTI leaders were under arrest and questioned what negotiations could be taken under such an environment.

“Now there is no negotiation, only the implementation of the Constitution,” he said.

The AGP said that both parties were brought to the table after a lot of effort and that there was a consensus among the parties. He maintained that the problem could have been solved if it was given some time.

AGP Awan said that he was consistently advocating for holding a dialogue. The CJP once again wondered why the government did not file a review petition against the April 4 order.

The chief justice also asked PTI to take high moral ground in the present situation. He further asked the PTI counsel who would accept the result if elections are held in such polarized conditions.

He said that the Constitution protects people’s rights, which could come through peace. The CJP said that the matter would be taken up next week.

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