LAHORE - The Lahore High Court on Monday issued notices to the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) and the federal law ministry on a petition questioning unavailability of NOTA (none of the above) — an option for voters on ballot papers for upcoming general elections in the country.

Justice Shahid Karim took up the petition and directed the ECP to submit written reply. He appointed former attorney general Salman Aslam Butt as amicus curiae (friend of court) to assist the court, observing that the matter was of public importance and would enhance public confidence in the electoral process.

A lawyer had moved the petition through Advocate Sheraz Zaka and argued that in countries like India, US, Bangladesh, Spain, Columbia, Russia and Chile, NOTA option was provided to the voters in their electoral system. However, it was not available in Pakistan.

He said NOTA should be included on the ballot papers as it would enhance the scope of political expression and public confidence in the democratic process and it was also a fundamental right of every citizen in consideration of Article 19-A of the Constitution, which recognized freedom of expression.

The counsel said that voters who do not vote would be engaged in the political process. He said the addition of option Nota would ensure credibility, enhance accountability and transparency to the electoral process.

The ECP’s lawyer, however, opposed the petition, saying that there was no provision in the Election Act 2017, which delineated that the option “none of the above” should be included.

The court issued notices to both sides and adjourned the hearing until June 12.

In a separate petition against the influence of facebook on the upcoming elections, the LHC issued notices to the ECP and others.

Lawyer Shahid Jamal had moved the petition based on the statements of Mark Zuckerberg, the owner of facebook, that fake accounts could influence the general elections in Pakistan. The petitioner said that Mark gave this statement when he appeared before the US Senate in April 2018. The petitioner said that it was the responsibility of the ECP to hold free and fair elections in the country and take all necessary steps to ensure fair elections.

He pleaded to the court to order the government to contact Mark. He asked the court to order the government to regulate the social media and end fake facebook accounts for fair and free elections in the country.

Kasur Rally Case: The LHC fixed Tuesday (today) to record statements of the accused, including political leaders of the PML-N accused of taking out a rally against the judiciary in Kasur.

In another case related to Nawaz Sharif’s interview to a newspaper, the LHC once again gave a chance to the federal government, secretary of the Cabinet Division and Pemra to submit replies. The court adjourned the hearing until June 21.