Level-playing field case. SCP issues notice IG CS and AG Punjab Sardar Latif Khan Khosa presented arguments on behalf of Shoaib Shaheen, who filed the appeal in the court.

Supreme Court issues notices to Chief Secretary, IGP & Advocate General Punjab on PTI’s plea seeking level-playing field

ISLAMABAD  (  Web News  )

The Supreme Court of Pakistan on Wednesday issued notices to the Punjab Inspector General of Police (IGP) Dr. Muhammad Usman Anwar, Chief Secretary Zahid Akhtar Zaman and Advocate General Punjab Khalid Ishaq on Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) petition seeking level-playing field ahead of the February 8 general elections.

A three-member bench led by Chief Justice of Pakistan Justice Qazi Faez Isa and comprising Justice Muhammad Ali Mazhar and Justice Musarrat Hilali heard the matter and adjourned the hearing of the case till January 8.

The proceedings of the case were broadcast live on SC’s website and YouTube channel.

PTI lawyer Sardar Latif Khan Khosa presented arguments on behalf of Advocate Shoaib Shaheen, who filed the appeal in the court.

On December 22, the top court directed the ECP to address the PTI’s concerns regarding the level-playing field on the former ruling party’s petition.

In line with the court’s order, the ECP representatives met the PTI delegation and assured them of addressing its grievances in the lead up to the February 8 national vote.

However, the party filed another petition on December 26, seeking contempt of court proceedings against the ECP over the electoral body’s alleged failure to ensure a level-playing field.

In its petition, it lamented the electoral body’s failure to implement the apex court’s directions — despite being notified by the Punjab ECP — wherein it had ordered the poll organising authority to address the PTI’s concerns.

The application referred to the top court’s ruling, in response to the PTI’s earlier petition filed under Article 184(3) of the Constitution complaining of being denied equal opportunities in the political arena, where it directed the electoral body to meet with the party’s representatives and address its relevant concerns.

The party, in its recent application, contends that the ECP secretary failed to abide by the apex court’s December 22 verdict as PTI candidates continued to be harassed and arrested even after the top court’s ruling.

Furthermore, the plea — which mentions the ECP and interior secretaries as parties to the case along with the Inspector General Police (IGPs) of all four provinces — also levels serious allegations against the Punjab IG, labelling him as the “mastermind” behind the crackdown against the PTI.

Seeking action against those responsible for violating the court’s order, the party had prayed to the court to ensure that its candidates are allowed to hold rallies and political gatherings.

At the outset of the hearing on Wednesday, CJP Qazi Faez Isa reprimanded Khosa for using the Sardar title with his name.

“Stop using words like Sardar, Nawab and Peer,” the CJP said while expressing displeasure over the use of such a title.

CJP Isa asked Khosa to show evidence that the ECP had violated the court’s direction regarding the redressal of PTI’s level-playing field grievances.

“I have brought the CD containing all evidence,” Khosa replied adding that the PTI leaders were not allowed to submit their nomination papers. “The entire Pakistan has seen what is happening with PTI.”

At this, the CJP advised the PTI counsel against making “political speech” in the courtroom and asked him to only talk about the Constitution and law.

The CJP inquired whether the petition was accusing of the IG and the chief secretary behind the actions against the PTI leader.

“What does the IG and the chief secretary have to do with the election?” the CJP wondered.

“Do you want action against individuals or the Election Commission?” the CJP asked.

Khosa replied that it was the responsibility of the Election Commission to conduct transparent elections.

“Of course, we are saying that it is the responsibility of the Election Commission. You are seeking contempt of court against IGs and the chief secretary,” the CJP said in response.

Justice Mahar inquired how many nomination papers of PTI candidates were approved from national and provincial assembly seats.

“You [Khosa] are only telling the rejection of the nomination papers, also tell about the approval,” he added.

“Do you want the Supreme Court to play the role of Election Commission?” the CJP asked after Khosa complained about rejection of PTI candidates’ nomination papers by the returning officers.

Khosa said the nomination papers of only one political party are being rejected. At which, the CJP expressed displeasure saying: “We should turn a mic towards you so that you can make a political speech.”

The CJP asked the PTI counsel to approach the appellate tribunals formed in all high courts of the country for redressal of their complaints.

“We have repeatedly stated that the courts stand behind every political party for democracy and elections,” the CJP said.

Khosa asked the chief justice to play the video submitted by him to see how his party is being victimised.

“How can anyone turn a blind eye to the worst situation prevailing in the country,” the PTI counsel said pointing towards allegations about denial of level-playing field.

After the conclusion of his arguments, the apex court issued notices to the top Punjab officials and adjourned the hearing till January 8. The court directed the chief secretary, IGP and advocate general Punjab to submit report that whether Election Commissioner Punjab instructions dated 24th December 2023 were implemented or not and if not then the reasons should be given.