SC criticises British envoy for comments on Pakistan’s elections

SC criticises British envoy for comments on Pakistan’s elections

SC criticises British envoy for comments on Pakistan’s elections

SC criticises British envoy for comments on Pakistan’s general elections

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ISLAMABAD: The Supreme Court of Pakistan has strongly criticized British High Commissioner to Pakistan, Jane Marriot, following her recent speech concerning Pakistan’s general elections in 2024. The court has called on the UK to learn from its past mistakes and move on.

During a speech at the Asma Jahangir conference last month, Marriot quoted British Foreign Secretary David Cameron, raising concerns about Pakistan’s February 8 elections. She stated that not all parties were allowed to contest the elections and that legal processes were used to prevent some political leaders from participating, along with restrictions on the use of recognizable party symbols. Marriot emphasized the need for Pakistan’s government, civil society, and international actors to work towards fostering an “open society” and “vibrant democracy.”

In response, the Supreme Court’s registrar sent a letter to Marriot, arguing that her criticism of sidelining a particular political party by stripping it of its symbol was unfounded and did not follow the law. The registrar highlighted that elections were required to be held within 90 days of the completion of the national and provincial assemblies’ tenure. However, the elections were delayed due to disagreements between then-President Arif Alvi and the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) over who had the authority to announce the election date. This matter was resolved by the Supreme Court within 12 days, leading to the general elections on February 8, 2024.

The letter further explained that many individuals wanting to contest elections in Pakistan previously faced a lifetime ban for not being deemed “Sadiq and Ameen” (honest and trustworthy) by the Supreme Court. This decision was later overruled by a larger seven-member bench, finding it unconstitutional.

Additionally, the registrar noted that the Elections Act, 2017, requires political parties to hold intra-party elections to prevent autocracy within them. The law stipulates that a political party failing to hold these elections would not be eligible for an election symbol. The Supreme Court’s reiteration of this law was not an unjustified decision, as Marriot suggested.

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The letter emphasized the Supreme Court’s commitment to transparency, highlighting that cases of public importance, including the decision regarding intra-party elections and party symbols, were broadcast live for the first time in Pakistan’s history.

The court’s letter also drew attention to historical injustices, such as the overthrow of Iran’s Mohammad Mossadegh in 1953 and the Balfour Declaration of 1917, suggesting that acknowledging these events could promote trust, friendship, and peace.

The Supreme Court stressed the importance of learning from past mistakes and promoting equality, peace, and humanity. The letter concluded with a call for mutual openness and democracy, aligning with the principles Marriot advocated.

“This letter is written on instructions of the Chief Justice of Pakistan, who extends to you and the people of your country his yearning for openness and democracy, and his best regards,” it concluded.

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