Election tribunals dispose of 62% petitions till March 31

ISLAMABAD, April 21, 2014: The election tribunals set up across the country to redress election disputes have decided 62% (254 of 410) of the post-election petitions till March 31, 2014, says a press release issued by Free and Fair Election Network (FAFEN) on Monday.

However, these tribunals have failed to dispose of as many as 150 (96%) out of 156 petitions within the legally-stipulated deadline.

The Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) constituted 14 tribunals across the country following the General Election 2013 to redress election-related complaints of contesting candidates. These tribunals were established in Lahore, Rawalpindi, Faisalabad, Multan, Peshawar, Bahawalpur, Abbottabad, Dera Ismail Khan, Karachi, Hyderabad, Sukkur, Loralai, Hub and Quetta.

The ECP received a total of 409 petitions, while one petition was filed directly with the Lahore Tribunal. It is, however, important to note that ECPs data released on January 28, 2014 shows 407 petitions filed with the commission. One petition numbered and later on cancelled by the ECP, one forwarded to the Lahore Tribunal after numbering it as 274-A and another filed directly with the Lahore Tribunal are missing from the ECP’s data.

This update, covering the proceedings till March 31, 2014, is based on direct observation of tribunals as part of FAFEN’s legal study being commissioned with the assistance of 18 trained lawyers.

According to the observation, 62% (229 out of 385) of the petitions have so far been decided or disposed of by the tribunals. Eighteen petitions were accepted; 17 were dismissed due to non-prosecution, 23 dismissed as withdrawn; 20 dismissed after complete trial whereas 111 petitions were dismissed on technical grounds which made them not maintainable. Reasons for dismissal of 40 petitions are not known to FAFEN due to non-availability of the copies of orders.

Meanwhile, FAFEN observers have recorded 2,076 adjournments of over seven days in the tribunals, in violation of election laws and ECP’s directions which urge the tribunals to hear the petitions on a day-to-day basis and do not allow an adjournment of more than seven days.

The ECP received a total of 409 petitions, out of which 25 were dismissed by the ECP itself during scrutiny. FAFEN’s data suggests that the ECP referred 384 petitions to the tribunals. One petition was filed directly with the tribunal in Lahore, bypassing the legal mechanism which resulted in its dismissal at the initial stage. Most of the referred petitions were moved by the contesting candidates, while three petitions were filed by voters.

The Lahore tribunal, being the busiest, received 56 petitions, highlighting the high prevalence of result-related disputes in the provincial metropolis and its suburban districts. The Peshawar tribunal received 40 petitions, followed by Faisalabad with 39 petitions. Collectively, the tribunals in Lahore, Peshawar and Faisalabad received one-third of the total election result disputes. Although disputes in Karachi echoed considerably in media, the Karachi tribunal received 30 petitions — considerably lower compared to the number of petitions filed in Lahore and Peshawar.

Independent candidates filed (99)petitions, Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) (66), Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) (58) and Pakistan People’s Party-Parliamentarians (PPPP) 50. The PML-N – party with majority seats in the National Assembly (over 50%) – had the major share of the petitions filed against its winning candidates. As many as 138 petitions, mostly in Punjab (115) were filed against the party’s candidates whereas PPPP’s returned candidates were nominated in 49 petitions – mostly in Sindh (48).