Islamabad: Pakistan Supreme Court is set to hear the Election Commission of Pakistan's review petition on Monday, seeking a review of its April 4 order of holding elections in the politically crucial Punjab province.
The apex court ordered the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) to hold elections in the province on May 14 and the deadline expired on Sunday.
There was a deadlock between the federal government and Imran Khan-led Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) party over the holding of polls in Punjab province. However, the coalition government and former prime minister Khan's party made "big progress" earlier this month after they agreed to hold general elections in the entire country on the same day but still differed on the date of the polls.
A three-judge bench, headed by Chief Justice Umar Ata Bandial and comprising Justice Ijazul Ahsan and Justice Munib Akhtar will hear the ECP’s petition.
Speculation is that the apex court may start contempt proceedings against Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif and others for violating its orders.
The court in its April 4 directive also asked the cash-strapped federal government to provide Rs 21 billion for the elections in Punjab and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa by April 10 and make available all the necessary security personnel to keep peace on the polling day, but the government failed to fulfil either of the two by citing financial and security reasons.
Instead of providing funds, the government played delaying tactics and took the issue to the Parliament which refused to endorse a money bill seeking funds for elections.
The government and opposition Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf began talks on April 27 to solve the issue of elections and reported a consensus on holding elections simultaneously across the country. However, an impasse on the date of polling stopped further progress when the third and last round ended on May 2.
The ECP on May 3 approached the court seeking a review of its order to hold polls on May 14.
Chief Justice Bandial addressing a gathering had said the apex court would proceed in line with the Constitution and would not sit idle on the May 14 election issue if the dialogue between the government and the PTI failed.
The issue of elections has rocked Pakistani politics as Khan demanded snap polls when he was voted out of power in April last year. As he failed to get his goal through protest, Khan dissolved the assemblies in Punjab and Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa in January by using his party’s governments in the two provinces.
Under the law, elections should be held within 90 days of the dissolution of an assembly.
The PTI dissolved the Punjab and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa assemblies on January 14 and 18, respectively, in a bid to force the ruling coalition in Islamabad to hold early general elections in the country.
The National Assembly will complete its five-year term in August this year.
According to the Constitution, elections shall be held within 90 days after the dissolution of the lower house. This means that the election must be held by mid-October. The last general election was held in July 2018.