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Pakistan Supreme Court rejects plea seeking nullification of elections after petitioner absent again

The petitioner, claiming to be a retired Army Brigadier, asked for a stay in government formation and re-elections to be held in 30 days. However, the court noted his absence in two hearings and his request to withdraw his petition, calling it a "publicity stunt".

Aveek Banerjee Edited By: Aveek Banerjee @AveekABanerjee Islamabad Published on: February 21, 2024 15:10 IST
Pakistan, Pakistan SC, Pakistan elections, nullification
Image Source : PTI Pakistan Supreme Court

Islamabad: Pakistan's Supreme Court on Wednesday rejected a plea seeking to declare the February 8 elections null and void after the petitioner failed to attend two consecutive meetings, despite being rapped by the apex court. Petitioner Ali Khan, who identified himself as a retired Army officer, sought the elections to be nullified and new polls to be conducted within 30 days to ensure fairness, transparency and accountability.

A three-member bench led by Chief Justice of Pakistan Qazi Faez Isa resumed the hearing after adjourning it on Monday. However, after observing that the petitioner was once again absent from the courtroom, the Supreme Court dismissed the plea and imposed a fine of Rs 500,000 on Ali, Dawn reported. Additional Attorney General Amir Rehman informed the SC that a notice had been sent to Ali’s house through the defence ministry, and the police also visited his residence but he was absent.

During the previous hearing, the apex court had described the filing of the petition and its subsequent withdrawal as something that amounted to abuse of the court process. “Was the application filed only for publicity? This cannot be allowed. We will not allow the SC to be used in a wrong manner,” the court observed.

At the start of the hearing, the plaintiff's lawyer conveyed the client's desire to withdraw the plea. In response, Justice Isa remarked, "Such a prank cannot be played on the Supreme Court. Bring the petitioner from wherever and present him before the court." It also noted that the plea was filed on February 12 but was reported in the media beforehand.

'A publicity stunt'

Earlier today, the court was informed that Ali was a former Brigadier who had been tried in a court martial in 2012 and dismissed from service. The chief justice read aloud an email sent to the top court by the petitioner, in which he had stated that he was abroad in Bahrain and had requested to withdraw his petition. Justice Isa said he took a connecting flight via Doha in Qatar.

"He is a strange person; people buy a return ticket due to it being cheaper but he booked a one-way ticket. It seems that Ali Khan has done a publicity stunt by filing a petition before the Supreme Court," the CJP said before imposing a fine on Ali.

Ali petitioned that the Supreme Court should order “a thorough and impartial investigation” into the alleged pre-poll rigging, election fraud, and misconduct and hold accountable those responsible for undermining the democratic foundations of the nation. His plea alleged that the elections were marred by gross violations of democratic principles, including the denial of a level-playing field to all political parties. He also sought a stay on the government petition till a final decision is reached.

Ali also underscored former Prime Minister Imran Khan's imprisonment on "fabricated charges" and denying his Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) party its electoral symbol, which he said severely undermined the democratic process. PTI candidates faced numerous obstacles and restrictions, such as pre-poll rigging, he alleged, despite most party candidates winning National Assembly seats. 

Following the Pakistan general elections, widespread protests have been held in Balochistan, Sindh and other parts of the country against alleged rigging in the 2024 general elections. Political parties, including the National Party, PPP, JUI, BAP, BNP-Mengal, PkMAP, and PkNAP, staged protest demonstrations engulfing major thoroughfares and district returning offices, demanding recounts and challenging the declared outcomes.

Pakistan heading for coalition govt

After days of intense negotiations, the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) and the Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) have reached a pivotal agreement to form a new coalition government, as announced by senior party leaders. In a joint late-night press conference on Tuesday, PPP Chairman Bilawal Bhutto-Zardari revealed that PML-N President Shehbaz Sharif is slated to reclaim the role of Prime Minister, while PPP co-chairman Asif Ali Zardari is set to become the President once more.

Bilawal Bhutto-Zardari expressed confidence in the coalition's ability to form the government, citing the failure of Imran Khan's Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) and Sunni Ittehad Council (SIC) to secure a majority in Parliament. Imran Khan's PTI criticised the newly formed alliance, dubbing it 'PDM 2.0' and accusing them of being 'mandate thieves.'

ALSO READ | PPP and PML-N forge coalition for new government in Pakistan, Shehbaz Sharif set to become PM

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