ECP chief says army, judiciary and govt declined support leaving little space for free, fair elections.
Chief Election Commissioner Sikandar Sultan Raja appears before apex court in case concerning transfer of CCPO Lahore Ghulam Dogar
ISLAMABAD: Chief Election Commissioner (CEC) Sikandar Sultan Raja on Thursday expressed his frustration in the Supreme Court (SC) as he claimed he was being “prevented” from fulfilling his constitutional duties in ensuring free and fair elections.
“When the military’s help was sought to provide security, the request was declined; when the judiciary was asked for returning officers (ROs), the request was declined; and when finances were sought to hold the elections, that request too was declined,” he said.
The comments came as uncertainty looms on over provincial elections in Punjab and Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa (K-P) after the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) dissolved both assemblies in January in an attempt to trigger general elections.
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With the governors and the electoral watchdog having been unable to announce poll dates for the provincial assemblies, fears persist that elections may not be possible within 90 days of assembly dissolution as mandated by the constitution.
CCP Lahore transfer
The CEC had expressed his concerns as the apex court was hearing a case concerning the transfer of CCPO Lahore Ghulam Dogar where Raja also appeared before the court.
Dogar had been appointed to the post for a second time in June last year after having been removed from Lahore as CCPO in 2021.
On the first day of caretaker chief minister of Punjab in January, ‘PTI’s blue-eyed officer’ Dogar was transferred while Bilal Siddique Kamyana, a Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) favourite senior police officer had been appointed as CCPO Lahore.
During the proceedings today, the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) chief said that “if the court deems transfers a hindrance to free elections, then they will be blocked”.
Justice Ijazul Ahsan asked for a detailed report of the CEC’s claims to be submitted in court but stressed that elections, as per the Constitution, should be held within 90 days of the dissolution of the assemblies.
“However, it simply cannot be that everyone is transferred in all 37 districts [of Punjab]”, the SC judge remarked.
“The caretaker government cannot appoint and transfer personnel without solid grounds,” he said adding that the ECP was legally bound to issue appropriate orders after reviewing the reasons cited by the caretaker government.
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Meanwhile, the petitioner’s lawyer, Abid Zuberi argued that Ghulam Dogar had been transferred by an order of the electoral body that was only communicated verbally, not in writing.
When probed by Justice Mazahir Naqvi, the CEC clarified that the chief secretary had informed the petitioner of the transfer orders by a phone call on January 23, but he was debriefed in writing on February 6 officially after the written request was received.
Upon this, Justice Naqvi inquired if the ECP chief had been unaware of SC orders.
“The apex court orders were not a part of the record we received,” CEC Raja responded, “provincial governments were issued guidelines concerning transfers.”
“You are only bound by the constitution and the laws, not your own policies,” remarked Justice Ahsan.