The Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) has notified the appointment of 14 fresh election tribunals (ETs) in consultation with the chief justices of the respective high courts in pursuance of an order issued by the Sindh High Court last week.

The ETs would start working from today (Tuesday). The newly appointed ETs are the retired district and sessions judges, five in Punjab and three each in Sindh, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and Balochistan. The ET Rawalpindi would hear the electoral appeals from Islamabad Capital Territory (ICT), reportedly in consultation with the Islamabad High Court, as no ET has been appointed in the federal capital.

Earlier, the SHC had dissolved the ECP-appointed three ETs in Sindh declaring their appointment as unconstitutional on the grounds that the SHC was not consulted on the ETs appointment. A letter from the registrar SHC to the ECP had also expressed court’s reservations on the ETs appointment.

Following this development, the commission, in separate letters written to the registrars of Lahore, Peshawar, Islamabad, Sindh and Balochistan High Courts, cited the SHC’s order while requesting for the consultations of all the five CJs regarding the ETs appointment. The commission had also directed the provincial election commissions to work in coordination with the registrars HC offices for the incorporation of the CJs HCs input in appointing the ETs.

Reportedly, in course of consultations, the IHC agreed for the appointment of the ETs for Islamabad Capital territory (ICT) under Punjab’s domain. The ICT has two electoral constituencies for the National Assembly, NA-48 and NA 49.

On the last month’s 13th, the ECP had appointed 14 ETs to hear election petitions on general elections, which were to start functioning after the official notification of the general polls’ returned candidates. The commission had issued the said notification on May 22 following which the ETs had become functional, before being ruled against by the SHC.

Consequently, the members election commission (MECs) had to conduct hearings on the election petitions of alleged rigging, pleading recounting and re-polling in respective constituencies. These petitions were to be directed to the ETs. 

Of the 14 previously appointed ETs, Punjab also had five while Sindh, Balochistan and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa had three ETs. In the light of the relevant provisions of Section 67 of The Representation of the People Act (RoPA) 1976, the ETs are to decide on an election petition four months after its receipt. These tribunals have complete powers to take any decision on the elections petitions.

In the story titled “ECP writes to registrars for HCs’ input on ETs appointment,” The Nation on May 28 had quoted a top-level ECP official as saying that electoral body had decided to show complete compliance with the SHC instructions on the ETs dissolution despite that the constitutional and electoral provisions, according to him, fully empowered the chief election commissioner to appoint the ETs without requiring to consult any institution including the judiciary. The ECP official had cited the constitution’s Article 219 (c) and Section 57 (1) and (2) of the RoPA 1976 in this regard.

The Article 219(c) states, “Duties of commissioner. The commissioner shall be charged with the duty of:-(c) appointing election tribunals.”

The RoPA 1976 Sections 57 (1) and (2) state, “Appointment of tribunal:-(1) For the trial of election petitions under this act, the commissioner shall appoint as many election tribunals as may be necessary.

(2) An election tribunal shall consist of a person who has been, or is, or, at the time of his retirement as a district and sessions judge, was qualified to be, a judge of a high court.”

Meanwhile, Javed Rashid Mehboobi, Rana Zahid Mehmood, Saif-ur-Rehman Khan, Kazim Ali Malik and Syed Nasir Ali Shah are the five ETs in Punjab appointed to hear election appeals respectively in Faisalabad, Multan, Lahore, Bahawalpur and Rawalpindi regions. Dr Zafar Ahmed Khan Sherwani, Zaheeruddin S Leghari and Muhammad Ashfaq Baloch would be hearing election appeals in Sindh’s Karachi, Sukkur and Hyderabad regions.

In Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, Zia-ud-Din Khattak, Shahji Rehman Khan and Syed Yahya Zahid Gilani are to hear election complaints from Abbottabad, Peshawar and Dera Ismail Khan regions. Muhammad Naeem Kakar, Muhammad Akbar Sani and Syed Abdul Khaliq Shah are the ETs for Loralai, Quetta and Hub regions.