Pakistan - April 2023
Constitutional crisis over elections brews
The Supreme Court on 4 April ruled the Election Commission's decision to delay snap provincial elections in Punjab until October unconstitutional and ordered that elections should go ahead. While former PM Imran Khan’s Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) party welcomed the ruling, as Punjab is a PTI stronghold and Pakistan’s most populous province, Parliament rejected the ruling and accused the court of political bias. The government cited financial and security concerns in favour of postponing snap polls to October 2023. Critics, however, note that the decision to delay the polls comes as the government fears it will fare badly at the polls amid Khan’s rising popularity.
The move is part of a growing power struggle between the government and judiciary, which escalated further when Parliament passed a bill to limit the Chief Justice’s ability to take suo-motu notice (decisions taken by the court on its own initiative). That bill was passed into law on 21 April. Analysts note that the tensions between the judiciary and government highlight a growing governance crisis, wherein weakened state institutions and the trust deficit between different branches of government threaten to undermine the rule of law.