The caretaker government and election authorities will separately approach the Supreme Court, most likely tomorrow (Monday), to clear confusion precipitated by a set of decisions by high courts that cast doubts over the schedule of general elections.
Caretaker Prime Minister Nasirul Mulk directed the government’s legal team to approach the Supreme Court to ensure that polls are held on the stipulated date.
Former speaker of the National Assembly Sardar Ayaz Sadiq also announced his intention to move the apex court.
On Saturday, the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) decided to move the Supreme Court.
The ECP’s first petition would seek clarification on a decision of the Lahore High Court (LHC) in which it directed the commission to redraft the nomination forms.
The commission would also challenge the Balochistan High Court (BHC) decision in which the court asked the ECP to conduct delimitation of Quetta constituencies afresh.
These orders have already disturbed the election schedule. Returning officers were scheduled to receive nominations papers of candidates between June 2 and 6.
Election authorities have asked them to wait till Monday before starting the process, implying that three of five days reserved for submitting nominations would be wasted.
The May 25 verdict on the same issue by the Islamabad High Court (IHC) is overwhelming: Citing a 2013 verdict of the Supreme Court, the IHC declared that the ECP was empowered to make changes in the nomination forms.
A more daunting challenge to the ECP is Friday’s order of the BHC that nullified new delimitations of eight constituencies in Balochistan. The verdict also ordered the ECP to redo the entire delimitation process.
Interestingly, Balochistan Assembly on Wednesday unanimously approved a resolution tabled by former home minister Sarfaraz Bugti seeking a month-long delay in polls.
The ECP announced the election schedule on Thursday which had earlier been fixed for July 25.
Additional Secretary ECP Dr Akhtar Nazir firmly told reporters after the meeting on Saturday that elections would be held on July 25.
However, veteran politicians and leaders of some mainstream political parties did not give much credence to his words.
Leader of the Opposition in Senate Sherry Rehman tweeted that she was approaching other parties to call a session of the Upper House of Parliament to discuss the situation.
Expressing concern over developments of the past few days, former chairman Senate Mian Raza Rabbani issued a statement, saying that the Balochistan Assembly’s resolution and verdicts by various courts were creating uncertainty on the holding of general elections.
According to him, if the state failed to fulfil its constitutional obligations under Article 224 of the Constitution, for holding elections within 60 days of the dissolution of assemblies, it would cast dark shadows on the federation.
The statement says, “The federation, under no circumstance, can afford further destabilisation of the democratic process. This will lead to severe polarisation between the federation and the provinces and also amongst the provinces.
“The state must realise that using Balochistan to further such [an] agenda will only weaken nationalist elements who are conducting politics within the framework of the Constitution. On the contrary such steps will strengthen the narrative of elements working at the behest of foreign powers in Balochistan.
“A delay in the holding of elections within 60 days, as provided under Article 224 of the Constitution, will also affect the schedule of the election of the president whose term completes in the first week of September this year.
“The judiciary must keep in mind the statement of the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court [who recently asserted] that elections will be held on time and also the provisions of Article 224 of the Constitution, 1973.
“The Senate now remains the only elected House functioning under the Constitution. As Senate represents all provinces and all major political parties, a heavy responsibility rests on its shoulders. It needs to ensure that the elections are held on July 25, 2018.
“I reiterate that the Senate be summoned or requisitioned immediately to remain in session till the July 25 to ensure that elections are held on time in a free, fair and transparent manner as provided under the Constitution of 1973.”