SC To Hear Petition Which Seeks To Void February 8 Elections

Court decides to summon the petitioner after learning he wanted to withdraw the petition

SC To Hear Petition Which Seeks To Void February 8 Elections

The Supreme Court on Monday observed that it will hear a petition that seeks to nullify the general elections held on February 8, 2024. 

Simultaneously, the court rejected an application from the petitioner to withdraw his petition after a weekend where a government official had levelled serious accusations against the Chief Justice of Pakistan - a member of the bench hearing Monday's petition.

Just days after the polls closed on February 8, Brigadier (retired) Ali Khan had submitted a petition to the Supreme Court under Article 183(4) of the Constitution, urging the Supreme Court to exercise its powers to declare the elections as null and void and stay the formation of a new government and order fresh elections within 30 days. 

Brig Khan had claimed that his petition sought "justice and redressal for the grave injustices and irregularities witnessed during the general elections held on February 8, 2024."

He had further argued that the elections were marred by "gross violations of democratic principles, including denial of a level playing field to all political parties, particularly the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI)."

Other grounds included the imprisonment of Imran Khan, massive pre-poll rigging by restricting PTI candidates, and delayed poll results amid widespread rigging.

Brig Ali Khan's Petitio...

On Monday, a three-judge bench led by Chief Justice of Pakistan (CJP) Qazi Faez Isa and comprised of Justice Muhammad Ali Mazhar and Justice Musarrat Hilali heard the petition.

During the hearing, CJP Isa learnt that the petitioner wished to withdraw their petition. At this, he noted that the petitioner had claimed to be a retired army officer. When attempts were made to contact him, his listed phone number was found to be turned off.

Expressing his anguish, Chief Justice Isa asked whether the application had been filed merely to seek publicity? 

The court further noted that the petition was filed in the top court on February 12, but it had been reported in the media before that.

"This cannot be allowed," the top court observed, adding that the court cannot be joked with. 

The top court then decided to summon the petitioner. Recalling that the notice to the petitioner could not be delivered to the stated address and contact number, the court ordered that the petitioner be contacted through the station house officer concerned. Notices were issued through the Ministry of Defence and the relevant Station House Officer (SHO). 

It is pertinent to note that the same bench had heard PTI's case for its election symbol. On January 13, the bench held that PTI's intra-party elections were illegal, and subsequently, the party was deprived of its iconic electoral symbol, 'Bat'. 

While issuing notices to the retired army officer, SHO and other relevant departments, the top court adjourned further hearings until February  21.

Prejudiced litigation

Legal experts and political parties fear that the top court's observations in the case, if recorded in the written order, may prejudice litigation regarding elections on relevant forums. 

They expect the top court to show restraint while treating the petition as Article 225 provides the forum, i.e., tribunals, for addressing the election disputes individually. 

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