ECP gets two more days to respond to PTI’s plea against KP poll delay

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PESHAWAR: The Peshawar High Court on Thursday adjourned hearing into a Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf petition seeking orders for the Election Commission of Pakistan to hold election to the provincial assembly within 90 days of its dissolution in January this year or with the minimum possible deviation from that deadline.

The adjournment came from a bench consisting of Justice Ishtiaq Ibrahim and Justice Sahibzada Asadullah until May 10 due to the absence of the counsel for the provincial governor.

The bench fixed the next hearing for May 10 declaring that there won’t be any further adjournments and that it would decide the issue on that date.

It also directed the ECP’s counsel to submit comments on the petition within two days.

The bench put off the hearing after Tariq Afridi, lawyer for the provincial governor, filed an application for adjournment saying he is busy with preparations for the May 6 PHC Bar Association elections as a candidate.

PHC adjourns hearing due to absence of counsel for governor

During the last hearing on April 19, the high court had ordered the governor and ECP to file their respective comments on the petition jointly filed by KP Assembly Speaker Mushtaq Ahmad Ghani and PTI secretary general Asad Umar.

The petitioners requested the court to declare illegal and unconstitutional a letter written by the governor to the ECP in March to recommend Oct 8 as the election date and a subsequent notification by the commission to fix that date for polls.

The KP Assembly was dissolved by the governor on Jan 18 on the advice of the then chief minister.

Barrister Gohar Khan appeared for the petitioners and said the 90-day election deadline stipulated by the Constitution had expired on April 18.

Despite persistent campaigning by the PTI for holding polls within that deadline since the dissolution of the assembly, the issue lingered on.

The ECP issued the impugned notification on March 27 fixing Oct 8 as the polling day.

The petitioners requested the court to declare that election to the provincial assembly is to be held not later than 90 days of its dissolution, subject to the “barest minimum deviation in present circumstances.”

They asked the court to direct KP Governor Haji Ghulam Ali or President Dr Arif Alvi to announce the election date while conforming to the legal framework.

Lawyers General Aamir Javed and Advocate Mohsin Kamran Siddique represented the provincial government and ECP, respectively.

When the bench began hearing into the petition, the counsel for petitioners said that this was an important constitutional matter but continued to linger on.

He said that the governor’s lawyer had submitted an application seeking adjournment of the hearing insisting that he was preparing for contesting the imminent PHCBA elections.

Advocate general Aamir Javed said that he had submitted a reply to the PTI’s petition on behalf of the provincial government.

The ECP’s lawyer said the response to the petition was ready and would be submitted to the court.

However, the bench reminded him that on the previous hearing, he was given the last chance to produce the same. It gave him two more days to respond to the petition in writing.

It observed that it would definitely hear all parties to the matter on next hearing.

Barrister Gohar Khan contended that the election date announced by the governor was contrary to his clear mandate given by the Constitution and tantamount to depriving the petitioners and other residents of the province of their fundamental right guaranteed under Article 17 of the Constitution to contest and participate in election.

He argued that under Article 242(2) of Constitution when the national or a provincial assembly was dissolved, a general election must be held within 90 days and the results of the polls had to be declared no later than 14 days after their consolidation.

The lawyer said the intention of the Constitution was that elections had to be held within the stipulated period and that it couldn’t be delayed on the pretext that finances or security personnel for them were not provided by the federal government.

Published in Dawn, May 5th, 2023