Pakistan's Election Commission has defied the government's opposition to changes in nomination papers for elections even as the Supreme Court endorsed all steps taken by the panel for holding free and fair polls.
The Election Commission has decided to go ahead with the printing of amended nomination papers for the polls expected to be held sometime in May without waiting for the changes to be approved by President Asif Ali Zardari.
The government has opposed the move, with Law Minister Farooq Naek saying such amendments must first be approved by the President.
During the hearing of a petition seeking the empowerment of the Election Commission, a three-judge bench of the apex court led by Chief Justice Iftikhar Chaudhry yesterday endorsed the Election Commission’s efforts to amend rules without getting formal permission from the government.
"Why does the Election Commission feel so weak to change its rules necessary to make the polls free and fair, especially after the apex court had explained in June last year that all steps must be taken to make the elections just and fair?" the Chief Justice was quoted as saying by the media.
The bench observed that the poll panel was authorised to make changes in the nomination forms.
The court directed the poll panel to go forward with changes in its rules without seeking the consent of the Law Ministry, saying this was allowed under an earlier Supreme Court judgement.
The bench invoked Article 190 of the Constitution, which authorises the apex court to call any executive authority to its aid, and directed the government not to create any delays in abiding by constitutional provisions and its earlier order for ensuring free and fair polls.