LAHORE: Clearing the much-talked about uncertainty over probable delay in holding of the upcoming general elections, the Supreme Court on Sunday suspended a ruling of the Lahore High Court (LHC) with regard to the new nomination forms.
This order came on petitions filed by the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) and former Speaker National Assembly Sardar Ayaz Sadiq against the June 1 ruling of the LHC in the apex court’s Lahore registry.
Chief Justice of Pakistan Mian Saqib Nisar categorically stated that the polls will be held on July 25. “The ECP will be solely responsible if the elections are delayed,” he warned.
The petitioners took the stance that the high court verdict will cause a delay in holding of the general elections and therefore, pleaded with the top court to overturn it.
On Friday, the LHC set aside the new nomination forms, approved by parliament through the Election Act 2017, and directed the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) to start the process of issuing nomination forms afresh after improving them with addition of necessary details about candidates who will contest the elections.
Following the recent developments – the LHC verdict and a resolution passed by the Balochistan Assembly seeking delay in the polls – two major political parties, including the PML-N and the Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) have expressed serious, warning that attempts are being made to delay the elections.
Speaking to journalists a day earlier, Additional Secretary of ECP Akhtar Nazir made it clear that the 2018 polls will be held on the scheduled date, which is July 25.
He said the commission will immediately file appeals against the high court verdicts about nomination papers and annulment of delimitation of constituencies in a number of districts.
The official said that returning officers will not receive nomination papers on June 3 and 4.
The commission had stopped issuance of nomination forms for General Election 2018 after the high court ruling.
The court ruled that nomination form to be submitted by candidates for the upcoming general elections does not include mandatory information and declarations as required from the aspiring lawmakers by the Constitution and law.
The LHC ruling
Justice Ayesha Malik in her judgement on Friday ordered the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) to ensure that all mandatory information and declarations are part of the revised Form A, the nomination form for election to an assembly or the Senate, and Form B, the statement of assets and liabilities.
The court issued its judgement on a petition asking the court to declare the two forms unconstitutional.
The petitioner’s lawyer Saad Rasool contended before the court that the forms had been amended by the parliament to omit vital information and mandatory declarations required under Article 62 and 63 of the Constitution that give voters an idea about a candidate’s credibility.
“The impugned forms do not provide for mandatory information and declarations as required by the Constitution and the law,” Justice Malik wrote in the 39-page judgement.
“The lack of disclosure and information [in Forms A and B] essentially means that a voter will not have the required information on the basis of which an informed decision can be made.”
In support of his arguments, the petitioner’s counsel had attached a comparative chart showing the difference between the 2008, 2013 and 2018 nomination forms which he claimed showed that vital information was missing from the new forms.
While partially allowing the petitions, the court ruled that the ECP is empowered to add to or improve Form A and B “so as to fulfil its constitutional mandate of ensuring honest, just and fair elections”.
The judge dismissed the petitioner’s challenge to the drafting of the nomination form by the parliament for having no merit.