SC deadline of May 14 for Punjab polls expires with no polls in sight

Today is May 14, a day on which the elections in Punjab were to be held as ordered by the Supreme Court. However, the ruling of the apex court regarding Punjab elections could not be implemented.

The elections did not take place nor could the orders of the Supreme Court be implemented. The Election Commission claimed that it had completed the preparations but owing to unavailability of funds, it was unable to move forward. The political parties also did not agree on the elections only in Punjab.

Given the uncertainty, the election campaign ended before it started, and the PML-N did not issue tickets to the candidates. The ruling parties say that the survival of the country lies in dealing with the crisis through joint efforts and resolving the issues through negotiations.

On the other hand, The Supreme Court (SC) on Friday fixed the Election Commission of Pakistan’s (ECP) plea seeking review of the former’s verdict of holding polls in Punjab on May 14 for hearing on Monday (May 15).

A three member SC bench, headed by Chief Justice of Pakistan (CJP) Umar Ata Bandial and comprising Justice Ijazul Ahsan and Justice Muneeb Akhtar, would take up the plea.
The SC had ruled the order of the ECP regarding delay in elections in Punjab as null and void, ordering polls on May 14. The apex court had also asked the government to release Rs21 billion in supplementary grant to hold polls, until April 10.

The court also ordered the electoral watchdog to present a report on the provision of funds on April 11. It came as Imran Khan-led party had filed the petition regarding delay in elections after the ECP on March 22 put off the polls till Oct 8, citing financial and security constraints.

Later, the federal government, in response, took the matter to the parliament to get the funding approved. Finance Minister Ishaq Dar presented the election expenses bill in the National Assembly.

The ECP, on April 11, apprised the SC in a report that the government had not provided funds to the commission for holding elections in Punjab.

According to the Election Commission, the government had not yet provided Rs21 billion despite SC's order and the Punjab caretaker government had agreed to provide only 75,000 personnel for security. "There is a shortage of three lakh security personnel for the elections in Punjab," the ECP noted.

Upon this, the court issued notices to top officials including Attorney General Mansoor Awan, State Bank of Pakistan (SBP) Governor Jameel Ahmad, Secretary of the Finance Department, and Secretary of the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) over failing to provide funds for upcoming Punjab elections.

Later, the PTI and the PDM-led government sat on the negotiating table, starting on April 27, to talk through elections but it culminated in consensus on holding elections simultaneously across the country with an impasse on the date during its third and last round on May 2.

On May 3, the ECP approached the court seeking review of its order to hold polls on May 14. Three days later, CJP Bandial said the apex court would proceed in line with the constitution and would not sit idle on the May 14 election issue if the dialogue between the government and the PTI failed.

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