ISLAMABAD: Pakistan’s President Dr. Arif Alvi wrote to the chief election commissioner on Wednesday, suggesting that polls in the country should be held on November 6 and urging Pakistan’s election regulator to seek the superior judiciary’s guidance on finalizing a single date for polls for the national and provincial assemblies, amid an election dispute that has cast doubts over when an elected government would take over the reins of the country.
On August 23, Alvi invited Pakistan’s Chief Election Commissioner Sikander Sultan Raja to a meeting to fix a date for the impending elections. Raja snubbed the offer and pointed out that after amendments to the Elections Act in June by the outgoing government of Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif, fixing a date for elections was the sole prerogative of Pakistan’s election regulator. Previously, the constitution mandated the president to consult the election commission before determining a date for polls.
Alvi has maintained that as per Pakistan’s constitution, the president must fix a date for polls within 90 days of the dissolution of the National Assembly. However, a delay in elections beyond the 90-day constitutional limit is almost inevitable as the outgoing government of former prime minister Shehbaz Sharif approved the results of a new population census days before it dissolved the assemblies on Aug. 9 and handed over power to a caretaker administration.
The Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) is now bound to redraw hundreds of provincial and federal constituencies on the basis of the latest census results, an exercise the commission says will be finalized by December 14, effectively delaying elections beyond the 90-day limit.
“WHEREAS in terms of Article 48(5) the general election to the National Assembly should be held by the eighty-ninth day of the date of dissolution of the National Assembly, i.e. Monday, 6th Day of November 2023,” Alvi wrote in another letter he penned to Raja on Wednesday.
He addressed the issue of determining a date for polls, adding that the Ministry of Law and Justice and Pakistan’s provincial governments agree that it is the ECP’s prerogative to announce the date for polls. Alvi said there is a consensus among the provincial governments that elections for the national and provincial assemblies must be held on the same day to promote unity and harmony among provinces, and to avoid “incurring of unnecessary expenses.”
Alvi wrote that there is a consensus in Pakistan that elections for the national and provincial assemblies must be held on the same day to promote unity and harmony among provinces and to avoid “incurring of unnecessary expenses.”
He advised Pakistan’s election regulator to seek guidance from the superior judiciary on the announcement of a single date for elections.
“THEREFORE, taking into account all the above, the Election Commission of Pakistan in consultation with Provincial Governments and political parties under the relevant provisions of the Constitution and in view that some of these matters are already subjudice, may seek guidance from the Superior Judiciary for announcement of a single date for general election to the National and Provincial Assemblies,” Alvi wrote.
Pakistan’s election regulator, meanwhile, has held consultations with major political parties, including former prime minister Imran Khan’s Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) party and assured all stakeholders that polls would be held as soon as the delimitation exercise is concluded.
However, independent analysts and political experts believe elections would be delayed to February and beyond.