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Pakistan court rules delay of provinces’ votes unlawful

ISLAMABAD (Net) — Pakistan’s Supreme Court on Tuesday ruled a panel’s decision to delay provincial elections was unconstitutional and ordered the votes held next month, according to a lawyer involved in the case.
Ali Zafar, the attorney for former premier Imran Khan’s Tahreek-e-Insaf party, said the three-member panel of judges headed by Chief Justice Umar Ata Bandyal set the new vote for May 14.
The elections board on March 22 postponed the vote in Punjab province until October 8 for lack of funds and security. The date for Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province was under review when the panel said a vote there could not be held by a constitutional deadline.
The court’s decision comes months after after Khan’s party dissolved the regional assemblies in Punjab and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa provinces in a failed bid to force snap national elections.
Since his ouster last April in a no-confidence vote in Parliament, Khan has been demanding early elec-tions. Prime Minister Shahbaz Sharif has dismissed the demand and kept to elections scheduled for later this year.
The top court ruling is a blow to Sharif’s government, which wanted national elections and the voting for regional assemblies held on the same day.
Zafar said the court ordered the government to provide funds to the election board and required all pro-vincial and federal officials to assist free, fair and lawful elections in the two provinces.
Earlier, government ministers told reporters they were expecting a verdict form the court to take the country out of constitutional crisis.
The prime minister has summoned the federal Cabinet to review the situation later Tuesday.
Azam Nazeer Tarar, the law minister, said the verdict would deepen the constitutional crisis. He said more judges should have heard this case to avoid any doubts. The government has been asking for for-mation of a full court but the chief justice rejected the request.

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