ISLAMABAD: The governor of Pakistan’s northwestern Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KP) province reversed his decision to hold the provincial assembly election on May 28, just four days after announcing it, citing “internal security challenges” that need to be addressed first.
Former prime minister Imran Khan’s Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) party dissolved the KP Assembly on January 18, shortly after the dissolution of the Punjab Assembly, in an effort to force early nationwide elections. The two federating units account for over half of the country’s population of 220 million.
According to the Pakistani constitution, fresh polls for the two provincial assemblies should be held within 90 days of their dissolution. The PTI has been counting on the national government’s inability to afford holding the provincial elections separately from a national election, which is otherwise due later this year.
After the country’s Supreme Court ruling to abide by the 90-day condition, Governor Hajji Ghulam Ali initially announced on Tuesday that the election would be held on May 28.
However, in a letter to the country’s election regulatory body written the very next day, a copy of which is available with Arab News, the governor backtracked on his decision.
He mentioned the changing situation in neighboring Afghanistan since the withdrawal of the US-led international forces while highlighting that it empowered the Pakistani Taliban who have been targeting the security forces and people.
“Existing kinetic threats [in KP] include IED [improvised explosive device] attacks, suicide bombing, cross-border attacks/fire raids, targeted killing, extortion, and abduction,” the letter said.
The governor cited the presence of militant groups in the province along with “terrorist threats from across the border” as reasons to delay the polls. He added political parties would not find a “level playing field” to contest the elections due to the looming threat.
The governor also cited financial issues and problems related to the census and delimitation of areas in the province as reasons for not holding the elections in May.
“Keeping in view the volatile security situation, non-availability of additional security personnel, fragile financial conditions, constitutional anomalies emanating from the census and delimitation process, it is recommended that before going to general elections, above mentioned challenges be addressed first,” he added.