ISLAMABAD: The Supreme Court has unequivocally rejected any potential delay in the February 8 general elections, asserting that objections to delimitation cannot be raised after the issuance of the election schedule.
The three-member bench, led by acting Chief Justice of Pakistan Sardar Tariq Masood and including Justice Mansoor Ali Shah and Justice Athar Minallah, made this ruling while hearing an appeal against the delimitation of two provincial constituencies in Quetta.
The bench invalidated the Balochistan High Court’s decision, which altered the delimitation of two provincial seats in Sherani and Zhob. These changes had been contested by the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP).
During the hearing, Justice Minallah questioned how high courts could exercise rights that are exclusively granted to the ECP by law. Justice Shah emphasized the need for the court to establish boundaries on this matter.
Acting CJP Masood expressed his perplexity at the widespread calls for election delays and urged for the timely conduct of polls. He remarked that all litigation related to constituencies becomes ineffective after the issuance of the election program, emphasizing that the electoral process should not be disrupted to provide relief to an individual.
Justice Minallah added that everything comes to a halt once the election schedule is issued, considering it the ECP’s biggest test to conduct transparent polls.
This decision follows the ECP’s issuance of the schedule for general elections two days prior, confirming the February 8 date.
Earlier, a three-member SC bench had suspended the Lahore High Court’s order against the appointment of returning officers from the bureaucracy, instructing the ECP to issue the election schedule.
Despite criticism from various political parties, PTI Chairman Gohar Khan clarified that the party does not seek election delays and raised concerns about the fairness of elections with the presence of returning officers from the executive.
Former ECP secretary Kanwar Dilshad welcomed the SC decision, stating that the LHC should not have intervened in the election process. He believed that the decision has paved the way for the elections overseer, with nomination papers set to be accepted on December 22 and elections scheduled for February 8.
Dilshad also commented on the challenges faced by electronic voting machines and highlighted the unique right of overseas Pakistanis to vote.