Punjab Polls within 90 Days, rules LHC

-Orders ECP to immediately announce date for Punjab Assembly elections
-Fawad welcomes the ‘historic’ decision, says LHC verdict is victory for Constitution and Law
-ECP asks Provinces to observe local holiday during March 16 by-Polls

LAHORE: The Lahore High Court (LHC) on Friday ordered the Election Commission of Pakistan to immediately announce the date for elections in Punjab.
Pronouncing the much-anticipated verdict reserved earlier in the day, LHC Justice Jawad Hassan ruled that the ECP was bound to carry out elections within 90 days of the assembly’s dissolution and that it should issue the election schedule.
The PTI had on Jan 27 approached the LHC seeking orders for the Punjab governor to immediately announce a date for an election in the province since the assembly had been dissolved on Jan 12. The ECP had recommended the elections be held between April 9 and 17.
Legally, an election must be held within 90 days of an assembly’s dissolution.
The petition, filed through PTI General Secretary Asad Umar, stated at the time that more than 10 days had passed since the dissolution of the Pun-jab Assembly but Governor Rehman had failed to fulfil his constitutional duty of an-nouncing an election date.
PTI Vice President Fawad Chaudhry welcomed the “historic” decision, saying that it was a victory for the Constitution and the law. “The federal government should sit with us and discuss the national election,” he said. PTI Senator Faisal Javed also celebrated the verdict, saying the people would make their decisions in the election. In the hearing yesterday, Justice Hassan asked about the chief secretary and inspector general of the Punjab police, saying they were also summoned.
The two officials arrived at the courtroom as the proceedings were under way.
The IG told the court that he was not aware of the case background.
“We will implement whatever decision the ECP takes in this regard,” the senior cop told the judge.
The court said it was looking forward to such an assurance from the police chief. The chief secretary also reiterated the stance adopted by the IG, saying he was also bound to implement the ECP and court orders.

The commission’s counsel raised objections to the admissibility of the petition, saying the plea pertained to an an-nouncement of the election date, which he said was not the domain of the ECP.

He argued that the commission could not be made a respondent in the plea.

The counsel said the LHC had itself stated that it would not issue an order whose implementation was complex.

He contended that neither the president nor the federal government had been made respondents in the petition.

“The police, judiciary, and other institutions have refused to sanction staff for poll duties. How can we hold elections in such circumstances?” the counsel asked.

He said the election date had to be given either by the governor or the president. “We require Rs14 billion for the whole electoral exercise in the province,” the ECP lawyer told the court.

He pointed out that the elections of provincial assemblies and the lower house could not be transparent if they were held on separate days.

“It is not written anywhere in the Constitution that the ECP will give the date of general elections,” he argued.

When he spoke, Punjab governor’s lawyer Shehzad Shaukat said he had submitted a written reply to the court on be-half of his client.

Besides, ECP on Friday directed provinces to observe local holidays in the 33 National Assembly constituencies where by-polls will take place on March 16.

The ECP has maintained that it is bound to hold by-elections in 60 days. The by-elections on the 33 seats could not be extended, clarified the elec-toral watchdog.

The development comes after the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) called for extending the from March 16 (Thursday) to March 19 (Sunday) in a bid to ensure maximum voter turnout.

The party’s lawmakers had resigned en masse from the lower house of parliament following the ouster of PTI Chair-man Imran Khan in April last year.

After the approval of the resignations of PTI members of the lower house, the ECP announced that by-elections for 33 vacant seats will be held on March 16.

Later, the PTI pleaded with the electoral watchdog to hold the by-elections for the 33 NA seats on March 19 instead of 16. –Agencies