Shahzad Ahmad

LAHORE - Former Railways minister and PML-N leader Khawaja Saad Rafique has moved the Lahore High Court to bar the expatriates from using their right to vote in the by-elections scheduled for October 14.

On the petition, the court has sought the procedure of rules and registration from the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP).

In his petition, Saad Rafique argued that the registration of overseas Pakistanis was done earlier while the law was passed later. He said that the verdict of giving right to vote to the expats must be declared null and void.

Saad, who is also taking part in the by-elections from NA-131 (Lahore), argued in the court of Justice Mamoonur Rasheed that the Election Commission of Pakistan had registered the overseas Pakistanis ahead of legislation in this respect.

He submitted that the court may kindly declare the verdict null and void. However, the LHC has summoned registration details from the Election Commission of Pakistan. By-elections for vacant seats of the National Assembly and provincial assemblies will by held on 14 October as per the ECP schedule.

In August earlier this year, the Supreme Court allowed overseas Pakistanis for the first time to use their right to vote in coming by-elections, fulfilling the key demand of the expats.

A total of 7410 Overseas Pakistanis are likely to exercise their right to vote in the by-elections, However, the PML-N candidate approached the Lahore High Court and challenged the verdict of giving the right of vote to the overseas Pakistanis.

Saad is contesting against PTI’s Humayun Akhtar Khan as his main rival in NA-131 Lahore-IX. He had been defeated by PTI Chairman Imran Khan from the same Constituency in the general elections.

A three-member bench headed by Chief Justice of Pakistan Mian Saqib Nisar had issued the ruling while hearing a set of petitions filed by PTI chief and some expats.

The petitioners had pleaded that the denial of right to vote to the overseas Pakistanis would mean refusal by the government to carry out its constitutional obligation.

The chief justice had ordered the Election Commission of Pakistan to make arrangements with the association of the NADRA to facilitate the overseas citizens to cast their vote through internet.

If the pilot project of voting in the by-polls ends successfully, the court would allow the overseas Pakistan to use their right to vote in general elections too.

Appointments of law officers: LHC seeks reply from advocate general

The Lahore High Court on Tuesday sought reply from the advocate general of Punjab by November 22 about the procedure for the appointment of law officers in the province.

In its written reply in the petition filed by Advocate Chaudhry Shoaib Saleem, the Law Department of Punjab told the court that it has discretionary power under the relevant laws to make appointments of law officers.

Additional Advocate General Anwaar Hussain argued that chief minister of the province enjoyed discretionary powers under Article 140 of the Constitution to make appointments at the advocate general office. He said the Supreme Court had already decided a similar matter in many judgments upholding the powers of the executive.

Earlier, parawise comments were filed by the secretary law department. However, Justice Abid Aziz Sheikh also directed the Advocate General Punjab to submit his reply in the petition and adjourned the case for November 22.

The petitioner argued that law officers had been appointed on political consideration who remained loyal to ruling government instead of the state. He said the government’s law lawyers drew salaries from taxpayer’s money but defended a specific political government.

He further said appointment mechanism of law officers was not regulated by any rules or law and was totally dependent on the pleasure of the executive head of the government which in itself is against the fair exercise of discretionary appointments.

He pleaded that professionalism could be introduced in the law officers’ appointments if some procedure was adopted for the appointments at the advocate general office through proper advertisements, written tests or interviews.

The writ petition seeks directives for the law secretary and office of Punjab advocate general to formulate a mechanism for the appointment of law officers and to bar them from taking part in political rallies.

The law officers are employees of state but not of a political party, the court observed. It also directed the advocate general office to appoint a professional and non-political law officer in his court. He said that appointments must be made on merit.

The petition alleges that mostly, the law officers are appointed with AGP from the political wings of various political parties and no open announcements are made before their appointments. It states that the law officers having political support and background are selected for various posts in the office of AGP and they remain involved in political activities for their vested interests instead of advancing the interests of the supremacy of law and the Constitution.

The petitioner moved the petition submitting that on Oct 13, the former additional advocate general slapped a police officer outside a NAB court despite holding a constitutional post. He said it was the day when Captain (retd) Safdar and Maryam Nawaz had to appear before the NAB court. Being a public office holder, he was obligated to have been in his office or in court performing his duties as he was drawing a hefty salary from the national exchequer but he was there in the crowd, the lawyer said.

He alleged that the law officers participate in political rallies, the conduct, act and omission of Khawar Ikram Bhatti being an example of it, though an FIR No 286/17 was also lodged against him under sections of 353, 186 and 34 of the Pakistan Penal Code with Police Station Ramna, Islamabad on the same day, and subsequently he was also removed from the office.