- Election watchdog to file appeals against LHC, BHC verdicts on nomination papers, delimitation of constituencies
- Interim PM Nasirul Mulk directs Law Ministry to challenge LHC verdict in apex court
- PML-N, PPP, PTI express concern over ‘attempts’ to sabotage elections, demand timely polls
LAHORE/ISLAMABAD: Mainstream political parties of the country on Saturday expressed apprehensions over ‘attempts’ to delay the general elections 2018—scheduled on July 25—as the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) moved the Supreme Court against the recent decisions of the Lahore and Balochistan high courts pertaining to the conduct of the polls.
The two rulings—revision of nomination papers and delimitation of eight constituencies in Quetta district—come on the heels of a resolution passed in Balochistan Assembly and a letter to the ECP by Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Pervez Khattak, seeking postponement of polls on the pretext of “hot weather” and KP-FATA merger, respectively.
Following the two judgements that may put the elections in jeopardy, Chief Election Commissioner (CEC) Sardar Muhammad Raza summoned a meeting after the ECP was ordered by the LHC to go over nomination forms to include information, such as educational background and criminal record of candidates, besides BHC’s order that asked it to re-conduct the delimitation process in eight constituencies of Quetta district.
The ECP ordered returning officers not to accept the nomination forms till June 4; however, further directions will be given after the decision of the SC pertaining to the ECP’s appeals. The commission hoped that the SC will resolve decision without any delay.
“Returning officers have been asked not to accept any nomination paper on June 3 and 4. A new schedule will be issued after the Supreme Court’s verdict,” ECP Additional Secretary Akhtar Nazeer told media persons after the meeting.
Vowing that the elections will be held on fixed schedule, he admitted that the election schedule announced by the commission might be affected by two to three days as “commission has the right to amend the schedule by a day or two”.
He, however, hoped that the polls won’t be delayed as the current schedule was flexible enough to accommodate the delay of two to three days.
INTERIM PM MOVES COURT:
Interim Prime Minister Nasirul Mulk and interim Sindh Chief Minister Fazlur Rehman have categorically stated that the elections will be held on their due date.
Interim PM Mulk, who had vowed to hold the elections on time after taking his oath on Friday, expressed concern over the decision of the LHC and ordered the Law Ministry to file an appeal against it in the Supreme Court.
‘PML-N WON’T TOLERATE DELAY IN POLLS’:
Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz supreme leader Nawaz Sharif and President Shehbaz Sharif emphasised that the party won’t tolerate even a minute’s delay in the holding of the general polls.
In a parliamentary board meeting chaired by Shehbaz in Lahore, a resolution was passed, stating that the PML-N will counter those trying to delay the elections.
In the meeting, a resolution was passed stating that no conspiracy can break the PML-N, adding that those who left the party will be held accountable by voters.
Addressing the meeting, Nawaz Sharif said that the party tickets will be given only to the PML-N loyalists.
Meanwhile, former National Assembly speaker and PML-N leader Sardar Ayaz Sadiq has also decided to file an appeal against the LHC verdict that seeks revision in the nomination forms.
Questioning the timing of the judgement, the former speaker said the court announced the verdict after the termination of the tenure of the National Assembly –May 31—even though the petition was filed in December 2017. “The NA was never given a chance to decide on the matter,” he said.
Criticising the decision further, “What is the purpose and meaning of the decision coming after election schedule being announced.”
Defending the formation of the nomination forms, the NA speaker said same forms were used for the Senate elections, adding the Islamabad High Court (IHC) had also rejected an identical petition last month.
The decision to simplify nomination papers had been taken by all parties in the parliament, he said.
He said that he would also appeal the courts to ensure elections are held according to the schedule announced by the ECP.
PPP CHIDES LHC FOR VERDICT:
The Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) leaders lashed out at the LHC for revoking the nomination forms, saying it [Election Act] was an “act of parliament” and only parliament can amend the nomination papers of candidates.
Speaking at a press conference in Karachi, senior PPP leaders, including Sherry Rehman and Khursheed Shah, expressed apprehension at “attempts to postpone the polls”.
Separately, PPP Senator and ex-Senate chairman Raza Rabbani warned that any delay in elections would destabilise the Federation.
The events of the past few days, including the resolution of the Balochistan Assembly and various decisions of the superior courts, have given rise to confusion regarding the fate of the general polls on time, the senator said in a statement.
He said that the Federation under no circumstances could afford a further destabilisation of the democratic process as this would lead to severe polarisation between the Federation and the provinces.
PTI REITERATES DEMAND FOR TIMELY POLLS:
Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) Spokesperson Fawad Chaudhary reiterated party chief Imran Khan’s demand for timely polls.
“The PTI is surprised by the ruling of the high court that may delay the elections in spite of Chief Justice Mian Saqib Nisar assuring timely polls on the same day,” he said.