ISLAMABAD: The Islamabad High Court on Wednesday reserved its verdict in the Kissan Relief package case, where the government has challenged the Election Commission of Pakistan’s decision to suspend parts of the package, announced by the prime minister last month.
A division bench comprising Justice Noorul Haq N Qureshi and Justice Aamer Farooq reserved its verdict after hearing closing arguments.
Attorney General (AG) Salman Aslam Butt represented the federal government while Muneer Paracha argued on behalf of the ECP.
Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif had announced the Rs341 billion package for farmers on September 15.
The ECP, however, partially suspended the scheme on September 29, positing that its announcement ahead of the scheduled local government (LG) elections in Punjab and Sindh amounted to a violation in the code of conduct for the polls.
The AG had argued on Tuesday that the ECP was required to consult with political parties before suspending the relief package. Butt added that no such consultation was made prior to the suspension of the package and the ECP has drawn an irrational nexus between the package and the polls.
On Wednesday, the ECP counsel asked that if the package was not influencing voters, why the government went to court.
Paracha said that ECP is constitutionally mandated to hold free and fair elections in the country and no consultation was required with the political parties while dealing with administrative issues. He added that ECP has judicial as well as administrative powers.
Justice Farooq remarked that the code of conduct was not only applicable to voters, but also political parties. He questioned the legal status of a code of conduct made without consulting with the political parties. Also, the ECP did not provide specific reasons in its notification for suspending the Kissan package, he observed.
In the case, government has taken the stance that the package was not envisaged and announced overnight by the federal government on account of influencing the voters as soon as the date for the polls was decided.
In addition, ECP is not authorised and empowered to interfere in any business and impede in any policy decisions being adopted, it added.
Moreover, the issuance and implementation of the package constitutes a purely executive function of the federal government and has no link with the elections, including the upcoming LG polls in Punjab and Sindh or even in Islamabad – which does not even have a proper agricultural base, read the petition.
The reserved verdict will be announced today.
Published in The Express Tribune, October 15th, 2015.