Polls on February 11, ECP counsel tells SC


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ISLAMABAD: The Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) apprised the Supreme Court (SC) on Thursday that general elections would be held on February 11, 2024, as the court took up hearing on pleas seeking timely polls.

The apex court resumed hearing on a set of petitions seeking elections within the 90-day time period after the dissolution of the national and provincial assemblies.

A three-member bench led by Chief Justice of Pakistan (CJP) Qazi Faez Isa and comprising Justice Aminuddin Khan and Justice Athar Minallah was hearing the pleas moved by the Supreme Court Bar Association (SCBA), Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf and Ibadur Rehman Lodhi.

At the last hearing, CJP Isa had remarked that “all of us want elections, but a wrong impression is being created that we are not interested”.

The court had issued notices to the government of Pakistan and Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP), which has ruled out polls this year citing the need for fresh delimitation of constituencies given the approval of the 2023 digital census. Later, the electoral body stated that polls would be likely held in January 2024 but has yet to announce a final date. The bench had noted that they could fix the date for polls within 10 days.

The petitioners in this case have challenged the August 7 notification issued by the Council of Common Interests (CCI) besides amendments to Section 57 of the Elections Act, which empower the chief election commissioner to announce the date for polls.

The petitioners have moved the court to direct the relevant authorities to hold polls within 90 days as mandated under Article 224.

The National Assembly was dissolved on August 9, 2023, three days short of completing its constitutional term of five years. Article 224 of the Constitution of Pakistan stipulates that elections be held within 90 days of the dissolution of assembly, which in this case would have meant general elections in November 2023.

However, under Section 17 of the Elections Act, the ECP is bound to delimit constituencies after the official publication of each fresh census.

The hearing

At the outset of the hearing on Thursday, Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) lawyer Farooq H Naek appeared before the court and sought to become a respondent in the case. The judges consented to his request after PTI counsel Barrister Ali Zafar stated he held no objections to it.

Begining arguments, the PTI counsel contended that polls be held within 90 days.

However, CJP Isa interjected by observing that this request had now become ineffective.

When Barrister Zafar maintianed that his argument was related to a fundamental right, the CJP inquired whether the counsel just wanted elections now. To this, the PTI counsel replied in the affirmative.

The CJP then asked if anyone would oppose this. To this, both the Attorney General of Pakistan (AGP) Mansoor Usman Awan and the PTI counsel replied in the negative.

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