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Its constitutional command to hold free, fair elections: CJ.

ISLAMABAD, January 25, 2012 (Balochistan Times): Chief Justice of Pakistan Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhry on Tuesday observed that holding free, fair, and transparent elections in accordance with law was a constitutional mandate while protection of a fundamental right had been vested with the apex Court. He made these observations while heading a four-Judge bench over a constitutional plea moved by Pakistan Tehreek i Insaf chief Imran Khan, seeking right of franchise for the Pakistani nationals living abroad. The Chief Justice during course of proceedings, also told counsel for National Database and Registration Authority, Afnan Kundi to complete exercise of electoral lists.You have to complete the exercise without being influenced from outside. Courts orders cannot be flouted in this manner, he added. The Chief Justice asked Hamid Khan, counsel for Imran Khan, whether casting votes was a fundamental right, to which he replied that Article 17, ensured right to association and thus a fundamental right. The Chief Justice told the Election Commission of Pakistan and NADRA officials that under Article 219, ECP was bound to prepare electoral lists yearly while under Article 218 (3) elections had be to held free, fair and justly in accordance with law. He also told the counsel that by providing such facility to expatriates, they had to consider prospects of malpractices. Hamid Khan contended that about 8 million Pakistani nationals were living abroad and they deserved the right to exercise their right of franchise. He said that their participation in the process could have viable impacts upon the elections results and quoted a case of Shamon Parez and Benjamin Netanyahu regarding election results. To benchs query, Afnan Kundi, counsel for NADRA apprised that they had issued National Identity Cards to 3.688 million Pakistani expatriates excluding residents of Azad Kashmir and Gilgit Baltistan. Sherafgan, additional secretary ECP, apprised the bench that the facility for postal ballots was confined for the country. He read out Section 29 of the Representation of Peoples Act 1976 and said that it laid down the criteria for eligible voters who could get the facility of ballot papers. He said even in the most democratic developed countries, the right to cast votes was limited. The CJ appreciated the idea contained in the plea, but observed that it would be difficult to supervise everything minutely. He advised the counsel for petitioner to go through the issue thoroughly. Sherafgan further told that the issue had been alive for the last thirty years and even it was taken up to cabinet meeting during Nawaz Sharifs government but it was dropped later on. He said that the ECP had to bear extra expenditures if such an exercise was conducted abroad. Justice Khilji Arif Hussain observed that if the right of vote was exercised fairly, it would change fate of the country. He also suggested to the counsel to look into the issue that hundreds of polling officers deputed on polling process could not cast their votes. The Chief Justice said that ministry of foreign affairs had filed reply which was positive. The bench further adjourned hearing till February 6 and directed the respondents and petitioners to exchange their documents. The bench also allowed counsel for ministry of Inter Provincial Coordination to file reply. The ministry had apprised the bench that they had no relation with the issue.

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Publication:Balochistan Times (Baluchistan Province, Pakistan)
Date:Jan 25, 2012
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