ISLAMABAD: The Election Commission of Pakistan’s (ECP) decision on the Punjab and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KP) elections is declared null and void by the Supreme Court (SC) on Tuesday.
A three-judge bench led by Chief Justice of Pakistan Umar Ata Bandial and including Justices Ijaz Ul Ahsan and Munib Akhtar issued the decision.
In its decision, the Supreme Court ruled that the electoral body’s decision to hold elections on October 8 was “unconstitutional.”
The Supreme Court ordered those provincial elections to be held between April 30 and May 15.
“Constitution and law do not give the authority to postpone the election date,” the Supreme Court stated, adding that the election was in its fifth stage when the ECP announced its decision.
The court stated that the ECP’s order wasted 13 days and that the electoral body made an unconstitutional decision by shifting the election date to October 8.
The ECP had originally scheduled elections in Punjab for April 30, but they were later pushed back to October 8 in both Punjab and KP prompting the opposition Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) to file a petition in the Supreme Court.
The Supreme Court, which began hearings on PTI’s petition on March 27, reserved the verdict a day earlier, saying it would be announced the following day, April 4.
The Ministry of Defense had submitted its report explaining the reasoning behind the army’s refusal to provide security for the polls ahead of the expected verdict.
The Supreme Court accepted the plea and began hearing it on the same day, March 27, holding six hearings over an eight-day period in which the parties involved presented their arguments.
The bench was initially composed of five members: Chief Justice of Pakistan (CJP) Umar Ata Bandial, Justice Amin-ud-Din Khan, Justice Jamal Khan Mandokhail, Justice Munib Akhtar, and Justice Ijazul Ahsan.
On March 30, however, Justice Amin recused himself from the proceedings, citing a three-member bench decision that halted proceedings under Article 184(3) of the Constitution.
The bench was then reduced to four members, including CJP Bandial, Justice Mandokhail, Justice Akhtar, and Justice Ahsan.
On March 31, Justice Mandokhail also recused himself, stating that he would like to withdraw because he was not consulted prior to the formation of the bench.
To hear the case, a new bench was formed consisting of CJP Bandial, Justice Akhtar, and Justice Ahsan.
The three-member bench that issued the verdict heard arguments from the advocate generals of Punjab and KP, the attorney general of Pakistan, ECP’s lawyer, and the defense and finance secretaries.
During the hearing, the coalition parties, Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) and Pakistan Democratic Movement (PDM) requested the formation of a full court to hear the case.
However, the Supreme Court denied their request. The coalition parties have expressed their dissatisfaction with the three-member bench hearing the case and have stated that they will not accept the decision.
Law Minister Azam Nazeer Tarar has also stated that the government will not accept a hasty Supreme Court decision on a sensitive and important issue.