Efforts made to curtail ECP powers: CEC

By Ali Imran

ISLAMABAD: Chief Election Commissioner (CEC) Sikander Sultan Raja on Thursday informed the Supreme Court that efforts were being made to curtail the powers of the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP).
The ECP chief made the statement when he appeared before the Supreme Court in a case related to the transfer of former Lahore capital city police officer (CCPO) Ghulam Mehmood Dogar.
He was summoned by the apex court to explain the reasons behind the Dogar’s removal.
During today’s hearing, Justice Ijaz Ul Ahsan asked why the CCPO was removed despite orders of the Supreme Court and what was the hurry in issuing the transfer orders.

The lawyer for the Punjab government informed the bench that Dogar was transferred on the orders of the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP).

At this, Justice Ahsan asked what role the ECP has in the transfer of officers. While Justice Mazahar Ali Akbar Naqvi remarked that the ECP’s role comes into effect after the elections have been announced.

Additional advocate general told the court that they had taken approval from the ECP over Dogar’s removal as a care-taker setup had been placed.

“As per the Constitution, elections have to be held within 90 days after a caretaker setup takes over,” said the lawyer.

At this, Justice Ahsan asked where the ECP was, while Justice Naqvi remarked that half of the officers posted in Pun-jab had been transferred.

“Is there any district of Punjab where there has not been a transfer,” asked Justice Naqvi.

Meanwhile, Justice Ahsan wondered whether the ECP was aware of the Supreme Court’s orders on Dogar’s posting.

“Election Commission is doing everything apart from its job,” remarked Justice Ahsan.

The bench after issuing the summons adjourned the hearing for an hour.

Once the hearing resumed, CEC Raja appeared before the bench.

Justice Ahsan told the ECP chief that the constitution clearly mandates that elections are to be held within 90 days. He added that holding polls is the ECP’s job and if they are not held within the stipulated time then it would be a violation of the Constitution.

“There is no confusion in the Constitution on elections being held within 90 days,” said Justice Ahsan. He also added that in the Constitution it was clear that the interim government is not empowered to remove officers.

The judge also remarked, if a transfer is required then the caretaker government needs to provide concrete reasons. He added that the ECP must examine those reasons and then issue an appropriate order.

“Election Commission does not have to follow the orders of the province,” said Justice Ahsan.

At this, the ECP chief told the bench that if the court wants they can restore Dogar as the CCPO.

The CEC said that the ECP did not allow appointments and transfers in the entire province under a single policy. He added that it was important to transfer some commissioners, deputy commissioners, regional police officers and oth-ers to “ensure free and fair elections”.

“If the court gives an order then we will not allow the transfers,” said Raja.

On this, Justice Ahsan remarked that the court will not issue any such orders, adding that they were bound to follow the Constitution.