ISLAMABAD - Despite strong opposition by Muttahida Qaumi Movement, the Supreme Court on Wednesday directed the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) to carry out a door-to-door campaign to verify the electoral lists in Karachi, and ask Pakistan Army and Frontier Constabulary (FC) for help in this regard.In a 24-page judgment, the court also ruled that votes should not be transferred from one area to another without the consent of voters, adding that it was the discretion of every citizen as to where he wants to cast his or her vote.A three-member bench of the apex court comprising Chief Justice Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhry, Justice Gulzar Ahmed and Justice Sheikh Azmat Saeed heard the different petitions filed by major political parties – Pakistan People’s Party, Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz, Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf and Jamaat-e-Islami.The petitioners had expressed doubts over existing voter lists and showed concerns regarding transfer of 2.7 million voters from Karachi to other areas of the country, requesting the SC to order for a proper verification of the electoral rolls for the city.Justice Azmat, who authored the judgment, read it out in the court. The order stated that in view of the peculiar security situation in Karachi, such verification must be carried out by the election commission with the help and assistance of Pakistan Army and the FC.The court questioned that in a situation where life and property of the people is not protected, how electors would come forward to cooperate with the staff of election department for such purpose, and there was every likelihood of irregularities.“An accurate Electoral Roll is a sine quo non for the holding of a free, fair and transparent election, which is not only the command of the constitution but also a fundamental right of the citizens, which appears to have been compromised qua the residents of Karachi,” it added.The court ruled that it is clear that the electoral rolls of Karachi are required to be revised by the election commission in exercise of powers conferred upon it under article 219 of the constitution read with Electoral Rolls Act, 1974 to achieve the object, which is to be ensured by the commission in terms of article 218.The court held that such elections must not only be held in a fair, just and honest manner but also appear to be so; in order to inspire the confidence of the electorate. “There can be no escape from the fact that a free, fair, just and transparent election is the very heart of our democratic system, as envisaged by the constitution,” said the judgment.“There is no denial of the fact that free, fair, honest, transparent and just election is demand of the day as the parliamentary system of the country is strengthening day by day,” the verdict said, adding that all eligible citizens have a fundamental right of franchise, which must be protected by issuing appropriate directions.The judgment further ruled that the provisions of article 219 and the Electoral Rolls Act and rules framed thereunder must necessarily be interpreted in a manner so as to achieve the said object. “Consequently, the ECP must fulfil its obligation cast upon it by article 218 of ensuring the holding free, fair and transparent elections and to achieve such purpose seek assistance, if necessary from the executive authorities in the federation in this behalf which are obliged to render such assistance by virtue of article 220 of the constitution.”The verdict observed that Karachi has a peculiar background, which includes a serious law and order situation, detailed stock of the same has been taken by this court in the case of Watan Party vs Federation of Pakistan (PLD 2011 SC 997).The court recalled that in the said judgment categorical directions were made for delimitation of the constituencies of Karachi with the observation to avoid political polarisation, and to break the cycle of ethnic strife and turf war, boundaries of administrative units like police station, revenue estates, etc. ought to be altered so that the members of different communities may live together in peace and harmony, instead of allowing various groups to claim that particular areas belong to them and declaring certain areas as ‘NO GO’ Areas under their fearful influence.“Subsequent thereto, on similar considerations, in view of relevant laws, delimitation of different constituencies has also to be undertaken with the same object and purpose, particularly to make Karachi, which is the economic and commercial hub and also the face of Pakistan, a peaceful city in the near future. The Election Commission of Pakistan may also initiate the process on its own in this behalf.”Regarding the objection of MQM’s counsel on the maintainability of these political parties’ petitions, the court declared that proceedings under article 184(3) are not limited to adversarial proceedings to be initiated by a wronged litigant seeking redressal of his individual grievance. Likewise, the rule of locus standi has also not been held applicable to the cases involving questions of public importance with reference to enforcement of the Fundamental Rights, especially in the domain of public Interest litigation to ensure a meaningful protection of the rule of law to all citizens.The judgment recalled that the court while deciding the case of Workers’ Party Pakistan (supra) has already highlighted the importance of preparation of the electoral list to ensure free and fair elections and has held that fair, free, honest and just elections are since qua non for strengthening of democracy. To achieve this goal, the verdict ruled that accurate preparation/revision of electoral roll is immediately required to be undertaken by the election commission through credible and independent agencies.