The Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) on Friday filed a plea in the Lahore High Court (LHC) seeking direction for the Punjab governor to immediately announce the election date for the provincial Assembly in order to ensure that polls are held within 90 days of its dissolution.
PTI's Secretary General Asad Umar filed the petition through barrister Ali Zafar contending that the governor of Punjab has been impleaded as a respondent since Article 105(3) of the Constitution requires him to appoint an election date to the provincial assembly not later than 90 days from the date of dissolution but he has failed to discharge that constitutional duty.
Barrister Zafar implored in the petition that on January 12, 2023, the then Punjab chief minister, Chaudhry Pervaiz Elahi, advised the governor to dissolve the assembly in the exercise of his constitutional powers under Article 112 of the Constitution. On January 14, 2023, pursuant to the advice of the then chief minister in accordance with terms of Article 112(1) of the Constitution, the assembly stood dissolved.
He contended that subsequently, the speaker of the Punjab Assembly, through a letter on January 20, 2023, requested the respondent to fulfil his constitutional duty and immediately appoint a date not later than 90 days from the date of dissolution for the general election of the Assembly as required by Article 105 (3)(1)(a) read with Article 224 of the constitution.
He further stated that PTI Punjab's parliamentary leader Sardar Usman Khan Buzdar conveyed the concerns of not only PTI but of the people of Punjab and also requested the governor to appoint a date, in accordance with the 90-day limit, for holding the elections.
Further, the petition noted that the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) is a body formed under Article 218 of the Constitution and mandated under Article 218(3) to organize and conduct the elections and to make necessary arrangements to ensure that the election is conducted "honestly, justly, fairly and in accordance with law".
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The ECP, through a letter dated January 24, 2023, also communicated its concern with respect to the inaction of the governor in appointing a date for the election and required him to select a date between April 9, 2023, and April 13, 2023.
Over 10 days have passed since the Punjab Assembly has been dissolved but the governor has failed to fulfil his constitutional duty of appointing a date for the election. The petition claimed that it is mandatory for the respondent to appoint the date to maintain the continuity of the system. His inaction to do the needful is "unlawful and unconstitutional".
Further, it said the failure of the respondent to appoint the election is creating hurdles for the ECP in discharging its duties, under Article 218(3) and the Elections Act, and in organising the election within the stated period of 90 days. The ECP in its letter highlighted these concerns but the respondent remained unmoved.
The petition also stated that the entire province of Punjab is waiting for the date of the elections, so that the people can know when there will be a return to representative government. The inaction of the respondent is also frustrating candidates' campaign plans due to the uncertainty it has engendered.
It added that unless the date of the election is known, and the ECP consequently undertakes the activities stipulated in Section 57 of the Elections Act, the election campaign cannot take off. "Every day’s delay in the announcement of the date of election is eating into the time available for election campaign. This is completely against the scheme of the constitution and the law," said the petition.
The petition concluded that the respondent is depriving the petitioner of its fundamental right guaranteed under Article 17 of the constitution, which, according to the law declared by the August Supreme Court, includes the right of a political party to contest and participate in elections. Unless the date of the election is announced, the exercise of this right will be frustrated.
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