Imran Khan Gets a Boost as Pakistan Court Orders Key Local Polls.

Pakistan’s top court ordered the country’s electoral watchdog to hold elections in the crucial Punjab province on May 14, pushing back against government efforts to delay the ballot and giving former premier Imran Khan a boost.
A three-member panel of Supreme Court justices, headed by Chief Justice Umar Ata Bandial, responding to a plea from Khan’s Tehreek-e-Insaf party, struck down the Election Commission of Pakistan’s earlier decision to delay elections in the nation’s most populous province to Oct. 8, Gohar Ali Khan, a party’s lawyer, said by phone.
While Khan’s party hailed the verdict, Law minister Azam Nazeer Tarar said the order was “disappointing” and it will only “deepen the political crisis.” Tarar insisted at a news conference that Justice Bandial should have set up a larger panel of justices to hear the case.
Punjab’s state legislature — then controlled by Khan’s party — was dissolved on his instructions in January. The former cricket star has been pushing for a fresh election in the province in addition to his demand for early national elections — both of which he views as a way for Pakistan to achieve political stability and help bolster its struggling economy.
The Election Commission had said holding elections in Punjab in April was not possible, citing a resurgence of terror attacks, a shortage of security personnel and Pakistan’s unprecedented economic crisis.
The court’s order is the latest headache for Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif as his government tries to convince the International Monetary Fund to revive its loan program and help Pakistan avert a default.
Khan, who was ousted from power last April through a confidence vote, remains a popular leader, with a recent survey showing his approval ratings had soared.
The government has the right to appeal in the Supreme Court, said Marva Khan, an assistant professor at the law school of the Lahore University of Management Sciences.

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