ISLAMABAD: The Islamabad High Court (IHC) on Thursday allowed the federal government’s request to set aside the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) order suspending parts of National Kissan Relief Package for farmers announced by the prime minister last month.
A division bench of IHC comprising Justice Noorul Haq N Qureshi and Justice Aamer Farooq announced the short order. The bench had reserved its verdict on Wednesday after hearing arguments from both sides. Detailed judgment will be issued later on, said court officials.
Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif had announced the Rs341 billion relief package for farmers on September 15. The ECP, however, had partially suspended the scheme on September 29, saying its announcement ahead of the scheduled local government (LG) elections in Punjab and Sindh amounted to a violation of the code of conduct for the polls.
Attorney General Salman Aslam Butt had argued on Tuesday that the ECP was required to consult with the political parties before suspending the relief package. Butt had added that no such consultation was made prior to the suspension of the package and ECP has drawn an irrational nexus between the package and the LGEs.
On Wednesday, the ECP counsel Muneer Paracha argued that if the package was not influencing the voters then why the government had come to the court. Paracha had maintained that ECP was entrusted with the constitutional mandate of holding free and fair elections in the country and no consultation was required with the political parties while dealing with the administrative issues. He added that ECP has judicial as well as administrative powers.
Justice Farooq had remarked that the code of conduct was not only applicable to voters but to political parties as well. He had added that what would be the legal status of the code of conduct made without consulting with the political parties. Also, ECP did not give any reasons in its notification suspending Kissan package, he observed.
In the case, government has taken the stance that the package was not envisaged and announced overnight by the federal government on account of influencing the voters as soon as the conduct of LG polls became imminent. In addition, ECP is not authorised and empowered to interfere in any business and impede in any policy decisions being adopted, it added.
Different factors triggered unrest amongst the farming community, which manifested in the form of nationwide agitation, protests, processions, sit-ins, road-blocks, etc against the federal government and drives were launched rising vociferous demands for the provision of immediate and necessary relief, the petition stated. The woes reverberated in parliament and the government was exhorted to resolve the issues ‘on a war footing,’ read the petition.
Justifying the package, the AG maintained that floods and other natural calamities have adversely affected the agriculture sector of Pakistan for consecutive years since 2011. The government announced the Kissan package for the purpose of addressing the grievance of the small farmers and to help absorb the adverse impact of the unfavourable weather conditions, he added.