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SC directs ECP to remove PTI’s reservations on level playing field in polls


ISLAMABAD: DEC 22 /DNA/ – The Supreme Court on Friday instructed the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) to remove the PTI’s reservations regarding a lack of a level playing field in the run up to the February 8 general election.

The top court directed the PTI to submit its complaint with the ECP at 3pm today and ordered Attorney General of Pakistan (AGP) Mansoor Usman Awan to play his role in the matter.

The directives were issued as a three-member bench, comprising Justices Sardar Tariq Masood, Athar Minallah and Syed Mansoor Ali, heard the party’s plea seeking level playing field in the elections.

Ahead of the hearing, the apex court had summoned AGP Awan as well as the electoral watchdog. As the court initiated the proceedings, it instructed the AGP to act as a facilitator in the matter.

In response to PTI’s apprehensions, Justice Minallah remarked, “The party’s concerns about not having a level playing field seem valid, considering that the events at Usman Dar’s residence were also reported in newspapers.”

He questioned why a single political party was being cornered.

Former PTI leader Usman Dar’s mother had on Tuesday accused PML-N stalwart Khawaja Asif and the police of raiding their Sialkot home and manhandling her. Asif and the Sialkot police had denied the allegations.

“An election is being held on one front, and here you are holding proceedings at Adiala Jail,” Justice Minallah remarked, pointing towards the ECP officials.

“Is this the manner in which you conduct yourselves? You are entrusted with the responsibility of holding elections,” the judge observed. He went on to say, “Your conduct suggests there is no level playing field.”

“Why isn’t the ECP putting a stop to orders issued under the Maintenance of Public Order (MPO)?” Justice Masood inquired.

The judge added that the court would soon issue a written verdict and asked the ECP to thoroughly examine and address all of the PTI’s concerns.

Following the directives from the apex court, a PTI delegation is expected to visit the ECP office at around 3pm to present their concerns.

The petition

In the petition filed a day earlier, PTI Chairman Gohar Ali Khan said the party should be allowed to contest elections without any discrimination.

The request was made in a petition filed through Advocate Shoaib Shaheen, which named the federation, the electoral watchdog, the chief secretaries of KP, Punjab, Sindh and Balochistan, as the respondents.

Earlier on Dec 19, the PTI had approached the ECP, but it failed to issue any order to ensure transparency and fairness of the elections. This situation is damaging the integrity of the country, the petition argued, adding that feeling aggrieved, the petitioner then filed a plea before the LHC, Rawalpindi bench, which is yet to hear the case.

It is the responsibility of ECP to hold fair elections, the petition said. But, it added, the district managements are not treating PTI on a par with other parties. Even after the issuance of the election schedule, PTI was not being allowed to hold workers’ conventions, corner meetings or any such political gatherings, the petition alleged.

Besides, FIRs are being registered due to political activities, raids being conducted on the ho­u­­­ses of PTI leaders and workers, and orders under Section 3 of MPO are being passed, the petition alleged.

It said such acts were illegal and tyrannical, adding these “atr­­o­cities” were being carried out in violation of the Constitution, Elections Act, 2017 and most importantly, against the fun­damental rights of the citizens.

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