KARACHI – The Supreme Court warned Friday that upcoming elections had to be peaceful to be fair, heavily criticising the government and security forces for failing to stop endemic violence in Karachi.
"If your family lives in fear, then how can a fair election be held peacefully, which is a constitutional requirement?" said Khilji Arif Hussain, one of five Supreme Court judges investigating a massive bombing in Karachi.
Sunday's attack killed 50 people in a mainly Shiite area of the country's largest city.
Chief Justice Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhry criticised the authorities for failing to control violent killings in Karachi, where ethnic, political and sectarian tensions led to the deaths of at least 2,000 people last year.
"The authorities should control the militant outfits, there is a turf war here," Chaudhry said, warning that people were being killed with impunity.
"The police force is still highly politicised. There are criminals in the police and if police recruitment is continued to be made on political grounds, it will never improve the law and order."
The city's top administrative official Hashim Raza Zaidi said the government was compensating families of the victims and would take nine months to rebuild buildings destroyed in the blast.
Monitoring adds: During proceedings, Rangers, IB and special branch submitted their reports pertaining to the Abbas Town bombing.
The Supreme Court inquired the Director IB why action was not taken if a report was present, adding that there was a power struggle in the city which had been given the colour of sectarianism.
The acting Inspector General Sindh Police, Ghulam Shabbir Sheikh informed the court that if there was complete deployment at police stations, the situation in the city would improve. The Chief Justice replied to the acting IGP that he had the court’s support and should take whatever steps possible to protect citizens.
The CJ told the DG Rangers maintaining law and order was his responsibility as he had already witnessed the performance of the police. He also asked the DG Rangers what measures had been taken after information had been received regarding the Abbas Town blast on March 4. The DG said an operation had been launched after the blast to arrest the perpetrators.
Govt, ECP differ on nomination papers
ISLAMABAD - The electoral body on Friday rejected the objections raised by the law ministry over amendments in the nomination papers for general elections and gave a three-day deadline to the ministry to get the amended nomination papers approved by the president.
It also decided to have the un-amended or the existing version of the nomination papers printed in case the amended papers are not approved till the given deadline.
In an internal meeting chaired by Chief Election Commissioner Justice (r) Fakhruddin G Ebrahim and members of the commission decided to reject the objections raised by the Ministry of Law and Justice on the grounds that the electoral body was mandated to make amendments in the electoral procedures with the approval of president in the light of Section 107 The Representation of the People Act (RoPA) 1976. The commission's management also contended that it was outside the purview of the law ministry to raise objections.
The RoPA's Section 107 states, "The commission may, with the approval of the president, make rules for carrying out the purposes of this act."
The CEC Fakhruddin Ebrahim, when contacted, confirmed having rejected the law ministry's objections on the amended nomination papers. "The Constitution of Pakistan duly empowers us to make such amendments that are deemed necessary," he said adding that the law ministry did not have authority to overrun or object to the ECP decisions.
"Any attempt to interfere in the ECP business shall not be acceptable. It would be detrimental for the conduct of free and fair elections," Ebrahim stated.
To a query, the CEC said that the deadline on the president's approval for amended nomination papers was set considering the time factor. "The present assemblies are packing up next week (March 16) and after that the elections schedule has to be announced. We don't have much time left, we can wait till Monday."
According to ECP officials, law ministry-raised three major objections were against the columns in the nomination papers seeking the wealth details and tax records of the candidates (for general polls) family members, details of the foreign trips in the past three years and the candidates' tax records. The law ministry asked the ECP to omit the relevant columns about the polls' contestants family members as well as the details of candidates' foreign trips. Moreover, the ministry also asked the commission to have the tax record of the electoral candidates scrutinised by the FBR instead of seeking such details in the nomination papers.
The commission has also proposed to hold general elections on May 8-9, while it has also informed the government the electoral schedule should be issued before March 21 following the dissolution of assemblies on March 16.
Sher Afghan said the ECP should receive the nomination forms within six days after the issuance of schedule, whereas scrutiny would be completed in the next seven days following the submission.
He further said that the president would announce the date of elections after which final election schedule would be issued.