Punjab: Pakistan SC arranges polls for Punjab, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa meetings to be held by April – Times of India

ISLAMABAD: Pakistani High Council on Wednesday ruled that elections to the provincial assemblies in Punjab and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KP) must be held within 90 days of their dissolution. The five-member bench, led by chief justice Umar Ata Bandialgave a split 3-2 decision.
Both Punjab and KP have been under caretaker governments since the provincial assemblies were dissolved last month after Pakistan’s leader of Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI) and former Prime Minister Imran Khan asked his party’s CMs in the two provinces to do so to do so, in an effort to pave the way for rapid polls.
“Parliamentary democracy is a prominent feature of the constitution. There can be no parliamentary democracy without parliament or provincial assemblies,” the verdict read, adding: “And there can be no parliament or provincial assemblies without the holding of universal elections as provided, required and mandated by and under the Constitution and in accordance with that”. Pakistan routinely holds provincial and national elections together. The general polls are due in October this year, but the dissolution of the Punjab and KP assemblies on January 14 and 18 respectively has paved the way for rapid polls.
The Supreme Court ruled in its ruling that in situations where a governor dissolved a provincial assembly, the governor had to fulfill the constitutional responsibility of designating a date for the election. “In situations where the assembly is not dissolved by order of the governor, the constitutional responsibility for appointing a date for the general election to follow is fulfilled by the president.”
The court stated that since elections would be held within a specified time following the dissolution of a provincial assembly, the president or governor “must fulfill the constitutional responsibility to act expeditiously and without any delay and within the shortest possible time”.
According to the constitution of Pakistan, elections must be held within 90 days of the dissolution of a provincial assembly or the National Assembly.
On February 21, President Arif Alvi had unilaterally announced April 9 as the election date in the two provinces, saying there was “ambiguity” on the matter. His move had created a constitutional crisis, with pundits debating whether he (President) had the right to announce the date for polls in counties.
Following Alvi’s call for polls, the SC took notice of suo moto to determine which government agency had constitutional responsibility to set election dates.
The SC ruled that since the Governor of Punjab, Mohammed Baligh Ur Rehman, did not sign the order dissolving the assembly, the president had a constitutional responsibility to announce the election date in the province. It further noted that despite signing the dissolution order on January 18, KP Governor Haji Ghulam Ali did not announce an election date, which was a “breach of his constitutional responsibility”.
Imran welcomed the ruling of the Supreme Court and said: “It was the responsibility of the Supreme Court to uphold the constitution and they have done so bravely through today’s verdict. It is an affirmation of the rule of law in Pakistan.”

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