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Pakistan Chief Justice: Assures free and fair elections

The Chief Justice of Pakistan (CJP) Mian Saqib Nisar has said the Supreme Court, while playing its due role, will try to ensure that fair and free elections are held this year much like the uncontroversial polls of 1970.

“With the assistance of senior lawyers, we will examine the role of the apex court for ensuring elections,” the CJP said on Monday. “The bureaucracy also has a key role for ensuring fair and free elections. The officials will be shifted from one province to another before the elections,” he added.

The CJP was heading a three-judge bench, hearing a suo motu case with regard to advertising campaigns of three provinces – Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa (K-P), Punjab and Sindh – to highlight their projects.

The general elections are due to be held in June this year. The last polls of 2013 were mired in controversy with the leading political parties including the Pakistan Peoples Party and Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) accusing the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) of rigging.

The PTI had later launched an extensive protest against the alleged rigging by staging a marathon sit-in in Islamabad that lasted 126 days.

The bench sought suggestions from federal and provincial governments, the All Pakistan Newspapers Society (APNS) and the Pakistan Broadcasters Association (PBA) on publishing of ads on media.

The bench also sought affidavit from the K-P secretary information that photos of the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) chief Imran Khan were not used in media advertisements.

During the hearing, the court was told that the K-P government has spent Rs1.63 billion on ads in the last five years. The government has also spent Rs20.4 million in last three months, said the secretary information.

The bench asked if they could say this on oath that the advertisement did not promote provincial government in any sense. Imran Khan appears in an ad which says ‘people’s dream has been fulfilled’, it added.

“Action will be taken if any misstatement is seen and the K-P government will be personally responsible for any misstatement,” the CJP noted.

He said the court has many sources of information and it has sought details of all ads published in print and electronic media during the past one year. He also ordered information secretary to take oath that pictures of the PTI chairman and K-P chief minister are not published in ads.

The bench said no political campaigns will be accepted and if the political leaders want to publish an ad then they should use their personal funds.

“Use your personal funds if you want to promote yourself. We have to decide about the ones from whom the money is to be recovered. Our print and electronic media people have not received salaries for the past three months,” he noted.

When the CJP noted that the Punjab Chief Minister Shehbaz Sharif had promised to deposit Rs55 million, Punjab Additional Advocate General Asma Hamid said the CM has already signed the cheque

With regard to advertisements in Sindh government, the CJP noted that neither the picture of former Pakistan Peoples Party chief Benazir Bhutto nor the PPP Chairman Bilawal Bhutto and Sindh chief minister should appear in any ad. “Benazir is a martyr and she is respectable to us,” he noted.

‘The hearing of case is adjourned till today (Tuesday).

Dr Shahid Masood’s case

The same bench also decided to proceed further against senior anchorperson Dr Shahid Masood on his false claims with regard to abduction, rape and murder of seven-year-old Zainab in Kasur.

During court proceedings, Dr Masood expressed his regret over the claims he made in a programme as Additional Advocate General Punjab Asma Hamid pointed out that the TV shows are watched by millions. “Time for pardon has passed,” said the CJP.

The bench observed that Masood had made incorrect statements before the court. “This is also contempt of court. There will be punishment as per law,” the CJP noted.

Inquiring about the duration for which the programme can be put on hold, Justice Nisar said the role of Pakistan Electronic Media Regulatory Authority (Pemra) has to be looked into. Defence Counsel Shah Khawar told the bench that Dr Masood is a renowned journalist and he speaks the truth.

However the additional advocate general highlighted how investigations in Zainab case were put on hold for 48 hours due to Masood’s allegations. The bench said the top court will also hear arguments from the prosecutor and attorney general. “We will see if terrorism section can be applied here,” it adds.

Appointing Faisal Siddiqui as amicus in the case, the bench decided to proceed further against the senior anchorperson. The top court directed Dr Masood to submit a copy of his reply to the attorney general and additional advocate general. The hearing was adjourned till March 12.

The Express Tribune

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