ISLAMABAD: The federal government has challenged in court the decision of the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) to suspend parts of a relief package for farmers announced by the prime minister last month.
In a petition filed on Wednesday, the government requested the Islamabad High Court to set aside the ECP decision to put on hold parts of the National Kissan Relief package. The government also urged the court to suspend the ECP order as long as the petition is being heard.
The petition was moved by Additional Attorney General (AAG) Muhammad Waqar Rana on behalf of the secretary of the Ministry of National Food Security and Research. It will be heard today (Thursday) by a division bench comprising Justice Noorul Haq Qureshi and Justice Aamer Farooq.
Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, on behalf of the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz-led federal government, had announced the Rs341 billion package for farmers on September 15. However, ECP partially suspended the scheme two weeks later, saying its announcement ahead of the scheduled local government (LG) elections in Punjab and Sindh amounted to a violation of the code of conduct for the polls.
The government’s petition argues that ECP has drawn an ‘irrational nexus’ between the Kissan Relief package and the LG elections. It also accuses the body of issuing LG election schedules and codes of conduct without consulting parties.
Arguing on behalf of the government, AAG Rana said that while ECP is entrusted with the constitutional mandate of holding free and fair elections, the body is not authorised to interfere in federal government business and impede any policy decisions being adopted. “Any such ‘code of conduct’ [issued by the ECP] is only in the nature of guidelines and does not create any enforceable duty,” he added.
Justifying the package, Rana said floods and other natural calamities have adversely affected the agriculture sector of Pakistan for consecutive years since 2011. “The government announced the Kissan package for the purpose of addressing the grievance of the small farmers and to help absorb the adverse impact of the unfavourable weather conditions,” he added.
Published in The Express Tribune, October 8th, 2015.