The Supreme Court on Monday suspended till further notice an Islamabad High Court (IHC) ruling in which the latter had revoked a ban placed by the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) on new recruitment in government departments and work on new development projects ahead of the upcoming general elections.
The apex court ordered that the ban remain intact till it decides the case, DawnNewsTV reported.
The ECP had on April 11 barred the federal and provincial governments from hiring in all institutions; working on development plans approved on April 1 or after; and transferring funds for ongoing projects.
The ECP had stated that its decision was aimed at discouraging ‘pre-poll rigging’ through the use of government resources as incentives.
According to a Dawn report, the provincial governments had subsequently brought the matter to the notice of the Supreme Court, which had referred it to the IHC.
The apex court had on April 24 asked the IHC to rule on the matter within a week’s time.
An IHC bench comprising Justices Aamer Farooq and Mohsin Akhtar Kayani had subsequently heard a counsel for the provincial governments, who had argued that the ECP had usurped the powers of the governments in ordering the ban two months ahead of the expiry of the assemblies’ constitutional term.
The provinces had argued that the ECP had interfered in the domain of the executive and that its decision had caused inconvenience to the public at large.
According to their counsel, the ECP could only issue such directives after issuing the election schedule.
The ECP, on its part, had defended the ban on recruitment and development activities, saying that it had been done to ensure a fair and transparent election.
However, on May 10, the IHC had set aside the ECP notification after which the election commission had petitioned the apex court to reconsider the decision.
Precedent exists, ECP says
ECP Secretary Babar Yaqoob had earlier made a similar argument before the apex court.
The chief justice of Pakistan had then asked the ECP secretary whether or not the commission had specific powers to impose such a ban.
The secretary had replied that the April 11 notification was issued in the light of the Supreme Court’s 2013 decision in the Workers Party case.
In the judgement, he had recalled, the SC had directed the ECP to conduct polls and make arrangements necessary to ensure that polls are conducted honestly, justly, fairly and in accordance with the law and that corrupt practices are guarded against in accordance with Article 218(3) of the Constitution.