While issuing notices to the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP), the Islamabad High Court on Thursday turned down the federal government’s request to suspend an order issued by the electoral body which suspended parts of a relief package for farmers.
A division bench comprising Justice Noorul Haq N Qureshi and Justice Aamer Farooq issued a notice to the ECP for October 13. The bench turned down Attorney General of Pakistan Salman Aslam Butt’s request to suspend the ECP’s orders regarding the National Kissan Relief package, observing that it would create complications.
The government had also urged the court to suspend the ECP order for the duration of the hearings, but it was turned down.
Additional Attorney General (AAG) Muhammad Waqar Rana on behalf of the secretary of the Ministry of National Food Security and Research moved the petition, saying that the ECP has drawn an irrational nexus between the package and the LG elections.
Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif had announced the Rs341 billion package on September 15.
The ECP partially suspended the scheme two weeks later, saying that the timing of the 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 argued that ECP has drawn an ‘irrational nexus’ between the Kissan Relief package and the LG elections.
Arguing on behalf of the government, AAG Rana said that, “Any 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 every year since 2011. The government announced the Kissan package for the purpose of addressing the grievance of the small farmers, he added. The case will be taken up on October 13.
Published in The Express Tribune, October 9th, 2015.