Provincial elections

The supreme Court’s verdict in the suo motu notice on the provincial assemblies’ dissolution was forthright on the need to hold elections within 90 days of dissolution of the provincial assemblies, and did not go down the path of second-guessing the Chief Minister by examining the correctness of his advice for dissolution. Its decision that the election date in the Punjab would be decided by the President should have taken some cognizance of his being bound in his actions by the advice of the Prime Minister. Instead, it held that the consultation with the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP was to be held, meaning thereby that the original meeting (that did not take place) was not considered a substitute. With 39 days left to April 9 rather than 90 days, it seems fair to say that the timeframe, which the Constitution has laid down, has become rather tight. However, it was not possible, realistically speaking, for the Supreme Court to rule otherwise. Its verdict left some wriggle room, as it allowed the possibility that the ECP might not be able to follow the 90-day deadline.
The decision may not have given anyone anything they wanted. The PTI, which might count itself the victor in the case, has not got a date for federal elections, or anything more than elections to one provincial assembly (the KP Assembly date going back to its governor). The PDM-and-allies federal government has not had the door entirely shut on elections being put off, but there has been no postponement in principle. The verdict also did not get involved in the nitty-gritty of elections, and how the ECP was supposed to overcome the barriers in its way, which could be summarized as a lack of funds, a lack of a security and lack of returning officers, for all three of which it had been refused by the federal finance and defence ministries, and the Lahore High Court, respectively. As such, the ECP has received no guidance from the Supreme Court on how these issues are to be solved. The Supreme Court may well have stuck to the letter of the Constitution and the law, but it cannot be said to have ensured elections by its decision. It may well have had an impossible task, which it brought upon itself through a suo motu notice, of a matter which would have been best decided by political parties sitting together to make a decision.