ECP ordered to prepare electoral rolls by Feb 23


The Supreme Court (SC) on Thursday declined to extend the February 23 deadline for the preparation of new electoral rolls and directed the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) and NADRA to use all resources to complete the task within the stipulated time and submit a compliance report.
The court also issued notices to 23 parliamentarians elected in the by-elections at a time when the ECP was incomplete under the provisions of the 18th Amendment. A four-member bench, headed by Chief Justice Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhry, was hearing pleas filed by Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf chief Imran Khan and late Benazir Bhutto against the presence of 37 million bogus votes in the electoral rolls.
Appearing on notice, ECP Joint Secretary Sher Afgan told the court that the ECP had already accelerated the process of preparation of new electoral rolls. However, he sought more time, saying the deadline was very close. The court observed that the time given to the ECP for the preparation of new voter lists would not be increased.
“Democratic system is totally based on transparent and free election, which is not possible without new voter lists that are free of fake votes,” the chief justice observed.
He said in 2007, then Pakistan Peoples Party’s chairwoman Benazir Bhutto had filed a petition for preparation of new voter lists. However, the ECP did nothing in this regard.
Justice Khilji Arif Hussain observed that the ECP must have electoral rolls ready, as new elections could be held anytime.
Hamid Khan, counsel for Imran Khan, submitted that according to the ECP, new voter lists could be completed by May 2012, not earlier.
He said the ECP’s stance was that it was not possible for them to meet the deadline and tried to shift the responsibility of the delay on to NADRA. On the issue of by-elections that were held after the passage of the 18th Amendment, Attorney General Maulvi Anwarul Haq submitted a copy of the draft bill and informed the court that an amendment bill regarding the matter would be tabled before parliament today or tomorrow (Friday). The court noted that there was no indemnity clause in it, adding that how would the win of people elected in the by-election after the 18th Amendment be validated. Justice Khilji Arif Hussain questioned whether illegal action could be rectified. PPP MNA Jamshaid Dasti who appeared in person told the court his and Asghar Ali Jat, Asif Ajmal, Basit Bukhari and Ahmad Mujtaba Gilani’s by-elections were held before the 18th Amendment.