LAHORE - Petitioner says caretaker government delaying elections; requests court to declare ECP’s notification ultra vires The Lahore High Court (LHC) disposed of on Tuesday a petition challenging the Election Commission of Pakistan’s (ECP) delimitation notification. The petitioner, Muhammad Muqsit Saleem, contended that the caretaker government setup was causing a delay in elections beyond the statutory period of 90 days.
He requested the court to declare the ECP’s impugned notification, issued on August 17, as ultra vires of the Constitution of Pakistan. He further requested the court to demand concerned respondents to stop following “unconstitutional directions” and take legitimate steps to ensure the implementation of the Constitution, which guarantees elections in 90 days. Saleem had further asked the court to suspend the operation until the decision of this petition was announced. During today’s proceedings, Justice Abid Aziz Sheikh questioned the petitioner’s counsel about why the president failed to announce election dates. “The situation would have been different today had the president announced the election date,” he remarked. “Is there any law under which the ECP can announce the election date?” he further asked.
The lawyer representing the ECP argued that the president can constitutionally not direct the ECP in this regard, but can announce an election date. However, Justice Sheikh stated that it is, in fact, the “constitutional obligation” of the president to give an election date. The judge told the petitioner that his first question should have been about the election date instead of worrying about its delay. The counsel responded that the ECP was rendering its role in accordance with the law, adding that the Constitution was “very clear” that elections will be conducted on the latest de-limitation record.
The petitioner challenged the ECP’s delimitation notification on the grounds that the delimitation process would delay the elections beyond the statutory period of 90 days. The time period is stipulated in Article 224 of the Constitution and Section 17(2) of the Elections Act. He argued that the delimitation notification violates Section 17(2) of the Elections Act, since the limit of constituencies was already published by the commission on August 5, 2022. “A year has passed since then, the elected government’s tenure is over, and this caretaker setup is causing an illegal delay in the statutory period of elections,” he stated.