SC distances itself from govt-PTI talks on polls – 04 May 2023

In its April 27 order, court says its earlier directions to hold elections in Punjab on May 14 will remain intact

The Supreme Court has distanced itself from the negotiations between the government and PTI over holding the elections for the national and all provincial assemblies on one date, observing that they were entirely their own effort without any direction or order by it.

However, a three-judge bench of the top court, comprising Chief Justice of Pakistan Umar Ata Bandial, Justice Ijazul Ahsan and Justice Munib Akhtar, while hearing a constitutional petition filed by a citizen Sardar Kashif Khan, who sought elections for all assemblies on one date, appreciated the initiative taken by the political parties.

“The court appreciates the efforts of all parties to try to end the current political impasse and in particular their voluntary agreement to enter into negotiations to choose a single date for holding general elections to the National Assembly and the four provincial assemblies,” the SC order issued on April 27 read.

The court also made it clear in the order that its April 4 verdict — that the elections in Punjab would be held on May 14 – would remain unchanged.

The court order earlier stated that the attorney general for Pakistan (AGP) had informed the SC about the communication between the government coalition and opposition during the Eid holidays on the matter of general elections.

“He [AGP] has further added that initial steps have been taken for the nomination of the members of the negotiating team from both sides and matters relating to their meeting,” it added.

The order further read that the court inquired why the Senate chairman had been involved in the matter.

To this, PPP-P counsel Farooq H Naek submitted to the SC that the venue of the Senate was chosen for the reason that it was the House of Parliament where the provinces had equal representation and all political parties were present therein.
“[Naek told the SC that] the role of the Chairman Senate will only be of a facilitator without substantive involvement,” the order read.

It further stated that PTI member Shah Mahmood Qureshi had informed the court that his party chairman Imran Khan had nominated him, Senator Ali Zafar and Fawad Chaudhry as part of their negotiating team.

It added that the AGP and Naek had assured the court that the government wanted to commence negotiations as soon as possible and was “willing to sit together with the PTI team either today or by tomorrow”.

The AGP had also stated that the government coalition would finalise the names of their nominated members by today, it continued.

However, the talks were unable to bear any fruit as both sides, after three rounds of talks, were unable to reach a consensus on the date of the elections.

The top court has fixed the hearing of the case related to the general elections on Friday (today) at 11:30am.

A day earlier, the PTI filed a civil miscellaneous application (CMA) in the apex court praying that its order on holding the polls in Punjab on May 14 must be ensured.

In its application, the PTI requested the court to hold elections in Punjab on May 14 while submitting a report on the negotiations held between it and the government to decide the date of the elections.

The party informed the top court in its application that the government and PTI could not reach a solution within the Constitution on the Punjab Assembly election dates, “in spite of the best efforts of [the] parties”.

The former ruling party pleaded that the top court’s order for the Punjab Assembly elections to be held on May 14 should be “implemented in letter and spirit so that the Constitution is upheld and does not stand violated”.

The government is expected to submit its concise statement in response to the PTI’s application to the SC on Friday.

Earlier on Wednesday, the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) had filed a petition in the apex court seeking a review of its order to conduct polls in Punjab on May 14.

In the plea, the commission maintained that changing the election programme was the solitary domain of the ECP under Section 58 of the Elections Act, 2017.

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