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Pakistan Supreme Court Declares ECP's Move to Postpone Punjab Assembly Polls Unconstitutional

Pakistan’s Supreme Court on Tuesday ruled that the Election Commission of Pakistan’s (ECP) decision to delay elections till 2008 to the Punjab Assembly was unconstitutional. “Constitution and law do not give [ECP] the authority to postpone the election date… Elections in Punjab and KP should be transparent, impartial and as per the law," the verdict said. The court ruled that the ECP’s order was unconstitutional and that it had no powers to postpone the election dates. The elections in Punjab will now be held on May 14, as originally planned. The verdict was announced by a three-member bench, headed by Chief Justice of Pakistan Umar Ata Bandial, with Justices Munib Akhtar and Ijazul Ahsan in Court Room 1 with heavy security deployed outside.The top court said the decision to postpone the Punjab and KP elections is null and void while restoring the original election schedule. The court verdict said the last date for submitting appeals against the returning officer’s decision is April 10 and said the poll tribunal will make its decision on the appeal on April 17. It said the federal government should provide PKR 21 billion in funds by April 10 to the ECP.The bench directed the election commission to revert to its prior election timetable, asserting that the ECP could not exceed the 90-day legal limit.
The court pointed out that 13 days were lost due to the ECP’s decision and ordered the caretaker government in the Punjab province to help the election commission. “The Punjab government should give a security plan to the Election Commission,” the verdict said. The ECP was told to notify the court if the government refused to comply. The apex court’s ruling on March 1 mandated that the election for the Punjab Assembly must take place within 90 days, in accordance with the date announced by Pakistan President Arif Alvi, following the dissolution of the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and Punjab province assemblies.
The court directed the government to allocate PKR10 billion for Punjab’s election expenses before April 10 and asked the ECP to report on it.