Islamabad's NA Seats: IHC Halts New Election Tribunal From Working

IHC Chief Justice Amir Farooq summons PML-N's Anjum Aqeel to appear before it, notes that contemptuous language was used against the court when providing reasons to transfer the case to a new tribunal

Islamabad's NA Seats: IHC Halts New Election Tribunal From Working

In a major development, the Islamabad High Court (IHC) has stopped a newly appointed Election Tribunal from proceeding against election results from the federal capital's three National Assembly (NA) constituencies.

IHC Chief Justice Amir Farooq directed this on Wednesday, issuing a two-page written order. The order was issued a day after  Justice Farooq had heard petitions filed by the runner-up candidates from the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) in these constituencies. These candidates include Shoaib Shaheen, Mohammad Ali Bukhari, and Amir Mughal.

The petitioners had challenged the proceedings of the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) which, on applications filed by three Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) MNAs, had transferred the election petitions from the election tribunal which was presided over by Justice Tariq Mehmood Jahangiri.

Following the application by PML-N lawmakers, the ECP constituted an election tribunal headed by a retired judge of the high court, Justice (retired) Shakoor Paracha, for Rawalpindi and Islamabad on June 7. 

On June 10, the ECP ordered the transfer of the petitions against the three MNAs from the capital, namely Anjum Aqeel Khan, Dr Tariq Fazal Chaudhry, and Raja Khurram Nawaz, to the tribunal led by retired Justice (retired) Paracha. 

The PTI leaders had also challenged the presidential ordinance promulgated on May 27, 2024, which empowered the ECP to appoint retired judges as the heads of election tribunals.

During Tuesday's hearing, Chief Justice Farooq expressed his extreme displeasure at ECP's order to transfer the election petitions to a new tribunal after the name of IHC's Justice Tariq Mehmood Jahangiri was finalised after the chief justice's recommendation.

During the hearing, the IHC chief justice also questioned the legality of ECP's order.

According to IHC's written order, the counsel for the petitioner submitted that ECP's transfer order was without lawful authority, and the reasons provided by the ECP were erroneous. It was contended that in the transfer application, allegations of bias were levelled against the tribunal's presiding officer, who is a judge of the IHC. However, no justification or basis for these allegations was provided.

It was contended that the ECP had wrongly exercised its jurisdiction by invoking section 151 of the Elections Act, 2017. It was also contended that either the proceedings before the tribunal, in which the matter has been sent, be stayed or impugned order be suspended so that the proceedings can continue before the original tribunal.

The counsel also stated that the language used against the tribunal was 'contemptuous', 'vexatious' and 'scandalous'.

"Reading of the transfer application shows that in ground-f of the application, contemptuous language has been used," the written order stated.

While granting a stay and halting the newly appointed election tribunal's proceedings, the IHC also issued a notice to PML-N's MNA Anjum Aqeel Khan—who had levelled accusations against Justice Jahangiri—to appear in person before the IHC and adjourned further hearings until June 24.

The writer is an Islamabad based journalist working with The Friday Times. He tweets @SabihUlHussnain