Only four election petitions decided in December 2014

ISLAMABAD, January 14, 2015: Only four cases were decided by the election tribunals in December 2014 whereas a petition decided earlier has been remanded back by the Supreme Court of Pakistan. So far 358 out of 411 post-election disputes (332 out of 385 by tribunals and 26 by ECP) have been decided, while another 53 are still pending with the tribunals.

The tribunals in Dera Ismail Khan, Loralai and Quetta have finished their work while the Sukkur tribunal has also ceased operation as its remaining cases have been transferred to Karachi following the refusal of its presiding officer to accept another extension in his contract. This is the third time that the ECP is extending the contracts of presiding officers since the formation of the tribunals following the 2013 General Elections

Given the backlog, the ECP seems to have failed to ensure compliance with the mandatory legal provision of disposing of election petitions within 120 days of receipt by the tribunals. Even though all the pending cases have crossed the limit of 120 days, the compliance with the mandatory provision of imposing the fine has been very rare. It is important to mention that the Supreme Court of Pakistan has already emphasized that the tribunals should follow the above-mentioned provision strictly.

Moreover, there is no provision in the law that deals with writ petitions against interim orders of election tribunals or the timeframe for their disposal, if filed. As a result, stay orders passed by high courts against writ petitions have lingered on for several months, delaying the disposal of petitions within the legally-stipulated deadline. As of December 31, 2014, thirteen petitions were pending due to restraint orders issued by the high courts.

The ECP constituted 14 tribunals across the country to redress election-related complaints following the 2013 General Elections. The election results were officially notified on May 22, 2013 following which the candidates had until July 6, 2013 to submit their petitions. The ECP received a total of 411 petitions, out of which 26 were dismissed by the commission itself while 385 petitions were referred to the tribunals.

Of the 358 cases, 154 have been dismissed on grounds of technical deficiencies, implying that the merits of the petitions were not adjudicated on. Forty-one petitions have been accepted; 25 dismissed due to non-prosecution; 30 dismissed as withdrawn and 106 dismissed after complete trial. The reasons for dismissal of two petitions are not known to FAFEN due to non-availability of their copies of orders despite continuous efforts to obtain them.

With regards to the 41 petitions accepted, 10 were filed by independent candidates and eight each by PPPP and PML-N. Meanwhile, none of the petitions filed by PTI have been accepted so far. Of the accepted petitions, 15 are against the returned candidates of PML-N, 10 petitions cite independent candidates as respondents, while three nominate returned candidates of PTI.

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