The Islamabad High Court (IHC) has accepted a government request to set aside the election supervisory body’s order of staying parts of the Kissan relief package.
A division bench comprising Justices Noorul Haq Qureshi and Aamer Farooq announced the short order on Thursday. After hearing the arguments of both parties a day earlier, the bench had reserved the judgment. A detailed verdict will be issued later on, said court officials.
On September 15, Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif had announced a $341 billion bailout package for farmers in a bid to shield them against the economic impact of the persistent slump in agricultural commodity prices.
Fifteen days later, however, the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) deferred execution of some parts of the relief package in a bid to prevent the ruling Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz from a potential unfair advantage in the upcoming local government polls.
Attorney General of Pakistan (AGP) Salman Aslam Butt had argued on Tuesday that the polling body was required to consult with political parties before suspending the relief package. “The ECP has drawn an irrational link between the package and the LG polls.”
A day later, ECP counsel Munir Paracha asked that if the bailout package was not influencing the voters, then why the government had challenged the electoral body’s decision in court.
Paracha had maintained that the ECP was entrusted with the constitutional mandate of holding free and fair elections and that no consultation was required with political parties while dealing with administrative issues. “The polling body has judicial, as well as administrative, powers.”
Justice Farooq had remarked on Wednesday that the code of conduct was not only applicable to voters but to political parties as well. “What would be the legal status of the code of conduct made without consulting with political parties? Also, the ECP did not give any reasons in its notification suspending the Kissan package.”
The government has taken the stance that the package was not envisaged and announced overnight to influence the voters and that the ECP was not authorised or empowered to interfere in or impede any government business or policy decisions.
Defending the relief package, the AGP told the court that floods and other natural disasters had adversely affected the agriculture sector of the country for consecutive years since 2011.
“The government had announced the Kissan package to address the grievances of the small farmers and to help absorb the adverse impact of the unfavourable weather conditions.”
Published in The Express Tribune, October 16th, 2015.
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