-Chief Justice says ECP is a Constitutional body and will be ‘offered protection’
-Have elections not been delayed beyond 90 days before, asks Interior Minister in joint Parliament Session
By Anzal Amin
ISLAMABAD: Chief Justice of Pakistan (CJP) Umar Ata Bandial on Wednesday said the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) was a constitutional body and will be “offered protection”, but warned that the Supreme Court will intervene if there was any ill intention in holding “transparent elections”.
He made the observation as a three-judge SC bench resumed hearing the petition against the transfer of Ghulam Mahmood Dogar as the Lahore capital city police officer (CCPO).
Earlier this month, the ECP had approached the SC to become a party in the case, stating that without reshuffling of “partisan officers”, free and fair elections would not be possible.
The ECP application argued that the apex court in the 2012 Workers Party case had mandated ECP to take pre-emptive measures to guard against any corrupt practices or even a possibility so that the elections could be conducted in accordance with the law.
During yesterday’s proceedings, the apex court disposed of the petition after the petitioner withdrew the plea.
The commission’s lawyer told the court that the election schedule for Punjab, where the provincial assembly has been dissolved, had been issued. Holding free and fair elections is the ECP’s responsibility, he said, adding that making transfers in bureaucracy also fell within its purview.
The CJP remarked that it had been proven that the interim Punjab government was making transfers with the electoral watchdog’s “permission”. He said that the ECP could also give transfer orders to the interim government. All political parties should get a level playing field in elections but the ECP should not give the interim government a free hand in making transfers, Justice Bandial said.
The CJP further said that the top court’s remarks were often misinterpreted. “We said in one case that there was an honest prime minister in 1988. Our remarks were misinterpreted by Parliament. We never said that there has only been one honest prime minister” in the country’s history, he said.
“The ECP is a constitutional body that we will provide protection to. The commission has powers under the Constitution. Its purpose is to conduct transparent polls. We will intervene if there is any ill intention in holding transparent polls,” the CJP remarked at one point during the hearing.
Commenting on the slew of audio leaks in recent weeks, Justice Bandial said that the SC was being “defamed through audio tapes”. “Those audio tapes have no significance,” he remarked.
Meanwhile, Interior Minister Rana Sanaullah on Wednesday asked whether elections had not been delayed in the past beyond the 90-day limit under the Constitution.
He made the remarks during a joint session of parliament in which the minister argued against holding general and provincial elections separately. However, he also asserted that the notion the coalition government was “avoiding” polls was “principally wrong” and that it merely wanted them to be held in a transparent manner.
Commenting on the topic of polls, Sanaullah said there were differing opinions on conducting elections, and parliament needed guidance from the government and other institutions in this regard.
“Regarding the 90-day limit in the Constitution, I mentioned that April 30 is beyond that timeframe but have elections not been held after 90 or 60 days in the past?” Sanaullah asked.
The minister said that in the 2008 elections, the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Assembly was dissolved earlier compared to the rest of the provincial legislatures and the National Assembly. “But the KP Assembly election did not take place 30 or 40 days prior.”