Ex-ECP secretary says elections may be delayed due to LHC judgment

  • Dilshad expects elections may be delayed by few days.
  • He said 54-day election schedule likely to be affected by LHC order.
  • He requested the court to annul the ECP’s notification.


 

ISLAMABAD: The Lahore High Court (LHC) order on Wednesday to suspend the Election Commission of Pakistan’s (ECP) notification to requisition returning officers from bureaucracy is likely to delay the Feb 8 general elections.

ECP former secretary and presently caretaker Punjab CM’s Adviser on Law Kanwar Dilshad, when approached, told The News that Feb 8 elections are likely to be delayed because of the LHC judgment. Dilshad said a few days delay in the polls is expected as the issue regarding suspension of ECP notification for appointments of Returning Officers (ROs) and District Returning Officers (DROs) will soon be taken up and decided by a larger bench of the LHC.

The Punjab government’s adviser on law and expert on elections said that in view of the LHC order, the Election Commission of Pakistan has suspended its 11th December notification (regarding the appointment of ROs and DROs) as well as the trainings of these election officers.

Dilshad said that as per the original plan, the ECP was to issue election schedule on 15th or 16th of December to hold elections on Feb 8, 2024. Now, he said, it may be done once the larger bench of LHC finally decides the matter regarding the appointment of ROs and DROs.

Dilshad, however, expects that the elections may be delayed by only for a few days as the election law requires a minimum of 54 days election schedule. He said the election schedule is likely to be affected by the LHC order.

The LHC on Wednesday suspended the Election Commission of Pakistan’s notification to requisition returning officers from bureaucracy for the February 8 general election.

Announcing his reserved verdict on a petition, Justice Ali Baqir Najafi sent the case to LHC Chief Justice for hearing by a larger bench. Petitioner Umair Niazi contended before the court that the Election Commission has contacted the government for returning officers, and added impartial and transparent elections could not be expected from a caretaker government. He requested the court to annul the ECP’s notification.

During the hearing, the ECP’s counsel requested the court to reject the petition as inadmissible, contending the commission wrote letters to the judiciary but it refused to provide judicial officers. It is ECP’s responsibility to conduct fair and transparent elections, the counsel had added.

The LHC, in its order, said, “On factual ground, the apparent absence of a level playing field for the political party of the petitioner is visible to all and has also been seriously noted by many independent groups. With top political leadership locked inside the jail or gone underground, the electioneering by his political party would be a big question mark. The apprehension of the petitioner of avoiding fair and free elections by the Election Commission of Pakistan appears to be well founded as some District Returning Officer, Returning Officers and Assistant Returning Officers are appointed from the presently posted members of administration throughout the country with whom the petitioner’s political party does not inspire any confidence.”

Pildat chief fears polls delay due to LHC decision

Ahmad Bilal Mehbob, president of the Pakistan Institute of Legislative Development and Transparency (Pildat), fears the Lahore High Court’s decision of suspension of the order of the Election Commission of Pakistan for the appointment of Returning Officers from the bureaucracy could cause delay in elections.

Talking to Daily Relation Times, the Pildat president was of the opinion that elections should not be delayed and the Supreme Court should reverse the decision of the LHC so that elections are held on time.

He said the LHC decision came at a time when the Election Commission of Pakistan was about to announce the election schedule.

He did not see anything wrong in the appointment of ROs from administration after the refusal from the judiciary

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