Sham Elections

Faisal Siddiqi writes in Dawn: Symbols as the soul of elections: A 12-member bench of the SC in the landmark ‘Benazir Bhutto symbols case’ (1989) had held, in essence, that symbols are the very soul of elections and also a fundamental right of political parties under Article 17 of the Constitution because they are central to the voters’ right to identify and chose their public representatives in the less-educated societies of South Asia. It is precisely because of this undisputed and entrenched constitutional jurisprudence that the Peshawar High Court’s (PHC) brilliant and courageous judgement of Jan 12, 2024 also based its declaration and direction to allot the election symbol to the PTI on the series of SC judgements in the ‘Benazir Bhutto political party case’ (1988), ‘Benazir Bhutto symbols case’ (1989) and the ‘Nawaz Sharif case’ (1993).

Constitutionally speaking, and in terms of binding judicial precedents in Pakistan, there can be no democracy without party-based elections, there can be no elections without political parties, and there can be no political party participation in elections without election symbols.

Erroneous SC reasoning: The Supreme Court’s short order dated Jan 13, 2024 in the ‘PTI election symbol case’, which upholds the ECP order of Dec 22, 2023, denies the election symbol to the PTI, and sets aside the PHC judgement, has given five main reasons for its order… Read the five reasons here >

“…What is surprising about the judgement is that it contains no discussion at all on the fundamental right of a political party to an election symbol based on the ‘Benazir Bhutto symbols case’ (1989) and other SC cases.

In the presence of such a fundamental right and judicial precedents, it fails to consider whether, on the basis of major or minor irregularities in intra-party elections, the election party symbol can be denied so close to national elections, in effect banning the party from participating in them.

The SC judgement in the ‘PTI election symbols case’ bears an uncanny resemblance in its style of reasoning to the federal court judgement in the ‘Maulvi Tamizuddin Khan case’ (1955), which was also decided on the flawed reasoning of hyper-legal technicality. The 1955 judgement was also oblivious to the principles of constitutional democracy. Sadly, the ghost of chief justice Munir is alive and kicking in 2024.”

The writer is a lawyer.