Pakistan: Apparently PTI’s allegations regarding level-playing field are correct – Justice Minallah


ISLAMABAD; GEO TV reportds: Supreme Court Justice Athar Minallah on Friday observed that Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf’s (PTI) allegations of denial of the level-playing field ahead of the upcoming general elections are “prima facie correct”.

He made these observations while hearing the PTI’s petition seeking a level-playing field in the general elections.

A three-member bench comprising acting chief justice Sardar Tariq Masood, Justice Minallah and Justice Syed Mansoor Ali Shah heard the petition.

Referring to the raid at the ex-PTI leader’s house, Justice Minallah said whatever happened at politician Usman Dar’s house was published in the newspapers.

The director general law of the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) was also present in the court.

The top court directed the ECP representative to meet the PTI counsels at 3:00pm today to address the party’s concerns regarding level-playing field.

The SC also ordered attorney general to assist the ECP in meeting with the PTI lawyers.

PTI founder Imran Khan’s lawyer, Shoaib Shaheen said Maintenance of Public Order (MPO) orders were still being issued against their leaders despite the issuance of the election schedule.

Neither the PTI candidates were being provided with the nomination papers, nor they were allowed to submit them, he said.

Acting Chief Justice Sardar Tariq Masood inquired why the ECP was not taking any steps to stop the issuance of the MPO orders.

Justice Masood said an order would be issued to the electoral authority to redress all the complaints after reviewing them.

Lawyer Shoaib Shaheen said they should be allowed to submit the papers to the Election Commission if the returning officers did not accept them

The apex court directed the ECP to address all their complaints. To which, the ECP and attorney general assured the court of cooperation.

Justice Shah also inquired the attorney general what the solution was to all that matter. The attorney general said the ECP should seek reports from all the inspector generals and ensure that no candidate faced an issue.

Justice Masood directed all the IGs not to harass PTI candidates. The PTI’s counsel said even lawyers were being arrested from the ROs’ offices.

Justice Masood said many PTI leaders were wanted in different cases. The wanted leaders were appearing in the respective courts, replied lawyer Shoaib Shaheen.

“They are also taking protective bails from the relevant high court, yet they are being arrested,” said the lawyer.

After hearing the arguments, SC disposed of the PTI petition pertaining to the level-playing field in the upcoming general elections.

The case was fixed for hearing earlier today (Friday) during the hearing of the cipher case against former prime minister Imran Khan’s PTI lawyer raised the issue before a three-judge bench headed by interim Chief Justice Masood.

Lawyer Niazullah Niazi informed the court that PTI candidates were not allowed to file nomination papers.

To which, Justice Masood said the Registrar Office would fix the case for hearing today. “If your candidate is an absconder then how can he file the nomination paper,” he asked the PTI counsel.

At this Niazi shared that “Umair Niazi’s, who is present in the court, father’s nomination papers were torn apart. The election commission has also not announced the verdict regarding the election symbol.”

PTI petition

In its petition, the PTI alleged that the district authorities and provincial and federal governments were not treating it on par with the other political parties.

Barrister Gohar Ali filed the petition in the apex court under Article 184(3) of the Constitution making the federation of Pakistan through its secretary, Ministry of Interior, ECP and chief secretaries of Punjab, Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa (KP), Sindh and Balochistan respondents.

He prayed to the apex court to direct the respondents to provide a level-playing field to the PTI for the purpose of free and fair elections, in the interest of justice.

He also prayed that respondents should be restrained from harassing the party workers and leaders and they should be allowed to participate in the election process without any discrimination.

The PTI chairman questioned as to whether the ECP was not under a constitutional duty to conduct free and fair elections and facilitate the largest and most popular political party in the country by providing a level-playing field for the purpose of free and fair elections.

Whether arresting, harassing and snatching of nomination forms, obtained from different returning officers, from workers and leaders of PTI was not illegal, unlawful and against the fundamental rights, guaranteed under the Constitution, the PTI chairman asked.

He also questioned as to whether the returning officers and the ECP were not under a legal obligation to give a free and fair environment and treat PTI on a par with other political parties.

He asked whether not providing a level-playing field to the PTI, and harassing, threatening and abducting party members and snatching nomination forms from them was not a serious threat to democracy.

Gohar informed the SC that he had approached the ECP by filing an application on Dec 19 for conducting free and fair elections while directing all authorities and parties concerned to act impartially and provide a level playing field.

Unfortunately, he added, the ECP remained passive and to date, no order for transparency and fairness of elections had been made, which was damaging the integrity of the Islamic Republic of Pakistan.

Feeling aggrieved, the petitioner also filed a writ petition before the Lahore High Court Rawalpindi Bench, which was yet not fixed, the PTI chairman submitted.

He contended that the district management/ provincial and federal governments were not treating the PTI on a par with the other political parties.

He pointed out that even after the issuance of the schedule by the ECP, the PTI was not being allowed worker conventions, corner meetings or any such political gatherings, which were guaranteed to every other political party in Pakistan.

He submitted that December 20, 2023 was the first day for the submission of nomination forms, according to the schedule issued by the ECP, adding that different PTI workers and leaders obtained nomination forms from different returning officers but not only were those citizens arrested but in some cases the nomination forms were snatched from the party workers/leaders.