The Islamabad High Court on Friday rejected Prime Minister Imran Khan and Planning and Development Minister Asad Umar's plea to suspend the Election Commission of Pakistan’s (ECP) notice issued to them for participating in a rally in Lower Dir in connection with the Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa local government elections.
The IHC also issued a notice to the ECP, directing it to appear before the court on March 28 and provide an explanation for issuing the notice. It has also summoned the attorney general for Pakistan for assistance in the matter.
The commission had summoned the premier on March 14, either in person or through his counsel. According to the ECP, the prime minister had violated Section 234 of the revised Elections Act, 2017.
“Sufficient evidence is available to establish that you [PM Imran] have violated the provision of the Revised Code of Conduct, Elections Act 2017, and the Rules made thereunder,” the commission’s notice had read.
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During the proceedings, Barrister Ali Zafar, who was representing the premier and the minister, told the court that on February 19, an ordinance introducing amendments to the Elections Act had been promulgated that allowed public office-holders to participate in election campaigns.
However, he added that the commission had held a meeting on March 10 and barred public office-holders from participating in election campaigns through an order.
IHC’s Justice Aamer Farooq remarked that the government had set up an “ordinance factory”. “The work of parliament is being carried out through ordinances," he added.
Justice Farooq observed that Article 218 of Constitution had authorised the ECP to conduct free and fair elections. “The election commission has referred to the articles of the Constitution [under which it had issued the notice].”
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The judge noted that the Constitution had given a mandate to the ECP that could not be overruled through an act of parliament.
Justice Farooq told the lawyer that his clients should have appeared before the ECP on March 14 for the violation of election rules.
In response, Barrister Zafar maintained that the ECP did not have the authority to issue a notice to his clients.
He asked the court to suspend the commission’s notice and stop it from taking further action.
The judge told the lawyer that he was not eligible to decide what was right and wrong.
“"You should have appeared before the commission. Your conduct was inappropriate."
Justice Farooq told Barrister Zafar that if his clients could not appear before the commission, he, as their lawyer, should have appeared before the ECP.
The IHC issued a notice to the ECP, saying it wanted to hear the commission’s argument as well.
Adjourning the hearing till March 28, Justice Farooq noted that the court was not suspending the ECP's notice to PM Imran and Umar.
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