The Supreme Court (SC) on Tuesday rejected Awami Muslim League (AML) chief Shaikh Rashid’s plea for going ahead with the polls in NA-60 after they were deferred by the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) after a special court disqualified a candidate, PML-N leader Hanif Abbasi, in the ephedrine case.
The top court validated the Lahore High Court’s (LHC) verdict to upheld the ECP’s decision, on the basis that it is practically impossible to hold elections in NA-60 on Wednesday, July 25. According to the ECP, it would take a lot of time to print new ballot papers for the 700,000 voters residing in the constituency.
Abbasi was disqualified just three days ahead of the general elections. At the time of his conviction, all preparations for the polls, including printing of ballot papers inscribing his name, had been finalised.
Furthermore, he was the only PML-N candidate in the constituency as the party had not fielded any covering contestant in NA-60.
Subsequently, the ECP postponed the polling in NA-60 constituency following Abbasi’s disqualification by the Control of Narcotics Substances (CNS) Court in Rawalpindi a day earlier.
As the ECP is “bound to provide a level playing field to all candidates […] the general election in NA-60 is postponed and will be conducted after the scheduled general elections, along with other postponed elections,” the commission had said.
Yesterday, Rashid — who otherwise would have enjoyed a virtual walkover in the absence of his main rival — had moved the LHC against the ECP’s decision. However, the high court rejected his plea, prompting Rashid to move the top court.
LHC Justice Mustaqeem, while dismissing Rashid’s plea earlier, had considered the possibility of printing new ballot papers, at which the ECP’s lawyer informed him that it was out of question because it would take a lot of time to print new ballot papers for the 700,000 voters residing in the constituency.
The apex court heard Rashid’s petition today, in which he had argued that the election could only be postponed by a returning officer (RO) if one of the candidates passes away. He argued that the ECP had no right to postpone the election for any other reason.
Chief Justice Mian Saqib Nisar had subsequently issued notices to the federal government and the ECP, seeking their responses to the petition. He had remarked that the petition was being heard to elaborate on the point Rashid had raised.
However, after hearing the facts of the matter, the chief justice eventually advised Rashid to wait and contest a ‘fair’ election instead of winning on a walkover, “not for himself but for the sake of voters”.