Legal Community Slam Rawalpindi Commissioner For Levelling Baseless Allegations Against CJP Isa

Call for an independent probe of the election results; urges political parties to prioritise the preservation of democracy

Legal Community Slam Rawalpindi Commissioner For Levelling Baseless Allegations Against CJP Isa

Pakistan's legal community on Saturday slammed a statement from the Rawalpindi commissioner that Chief Justice of Pakistan Qazi Faez Isa was allegedly involved in rigging the recently concluded general elections.

They demanded an independent probe into the reported irregularities in the elections to address concerns expressed by various stakeholders.

Rawalpindi Commissioner Liaquat Ali Chattha on Saturday made explosive claims that the elections had been rigged and that they faced tremendous pressure to ensure that the losers won by artificially inflating their votes by 50,000-70,000. He further claimed that CJP Isa and Chief Election Commissioner Sikandar Sultan Raja were involved in the rigging process.

In separate statements, the Supreme Court Bar Association (SCBA) and the Pakistan Bar Council (PBC) — the apex body of Pakistan's lawyers — expressed deep concern and anguish over the accusations against CJP Isa.

"The SCBA considers the above-said statement of the Commissioner to be a malicious attempt to raise a controversy qua the esteemed office of the Chief Justice of Pakistan, which is regrettable and intolerable," the SCBA said, noting that neither the Supreme Court nor the Chief Justice of Pakistan was linked with the electoral process. The SCBA said elections were the exclusive domain of the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP).

The PBC echoed the SCBA, noting that the Chief Justice of Pakistan has no concern with the election process. 

"Bar cannot afford such baseless criticism over the Chief Justice of Pakistan and sitting judges of the Supreme Court," a statement from PBC executive committee read, adding that a trend where the chief justice is implicated would undermine the superior judiciary.

The PBC demanded that all relevant authorities investigate Chattha's allegations, claiming they were levelled without evidence only to achieve ulterior motives. 

Probing elections

SCBA office bearers, including President Shahzad Shaukat, Secretary Syed Ali Imran and the 26th Executive Committee of the SCBA, said that in the wake of allegations of serious rigging, the matter needs to be taken up by the ECP with a fair inquiry and adoption of remedial steps to address grievances of the contesting candidates.

"Large-scale allegations qua the integrity and transparency of the election results certainly call for an urgent and thorough investigation, which is the Constitutional duty of the ECP in terms of Article 218(3) of the Constitution," the statement read as the SCBA urged the ECP to perform its constitutional obligations and take all possible steps to ensure the integrity of the electoral process.

The SCBA also urged all political parties and stakeholders to exercise restraint and pursue grievances through established legal channels.

"It is essential to prioritise the preservation of democracy and to avoid any actions that could potentially derail the democratic process in the country."

Meanwhile, the PBC demanded the establishment of an independent commission to ensure the freedom and fairness of the electoral process.

In a statement from PBC Vice Chairman Riazat Ali Sahar, Chairman Executive Commmittee Farooq Hamid Naek, along with PBC members including Muhammad Ahsan Bhoon, Hafeez-ur-Rehman Chaudhry, Pir Muhammad Masood Chishti, Haroon-ur-Rashid, Hassan Raza Pasha, Tahir Nasrullah Warraich, Mirza Aziz Akbar Baig, Syed Amjad Shah, and Khush Dil Khan, expressed that they were deeply troubled by the ongoing political turmoil in the country, particularly concerning allegations of pre and post-poll rigging. They said that the integrity and transparency of the electoral process, along with its outcomes, have lost credibility.

They called upon all political parties and stakeholders aggrieved by the electoral process and allegations of rigging to work towards establishing an independent commission acceptable to all political parties. 

"Such a commission, free from bias and influence, is crucial to ensuring a fair and transparent electoral process that commands the trust of all citizens," their statement read, adding that the recent allegations and disclosures by the Rawalpindi Commissioner have added to the concerns surrounding the electoral process. 
"The PBC underscores the urgent need for a thorough investigation into these allegations."

The PBC reiterated past concerns — expressed before the elections — with the performance and credibility of the Chief Election Commissioner.

"Regrettably, these concerns were disregarded by the political parties, which resulted in contributing to the current political turmoil," they said, adding, "Addressing such concerns in a timely manner (including the resignation of chairman ECP) could have averted the present crisis."

The PBC also condemned the coercion faced by independent candidates to align with specific political parties against their will. 

"Every independent candidate must have the freedom to choose their affiliation without undue pressure or interference."

The PBC also condemned the arrest of former federal information minister Fawad Chaudhry and PTI-backed independent candidate Salman Akram Raja. 

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