ISLAMABAD: Hours after the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) sent President Dr Arif Alvi possible election dates, between April 30 and May 7, the president on Friday announced April 30 as the date for holding elections in the provincial assembly of Punjab.
The top electoral body had proposed a poll date between April 30 and May 7, 2023, for holding general elections of the provincial assembly of Punjab, and had further suggested holding elections preferably on a Sunday. “The president announced the date (for elections in Punjab) after considering dates proposed by the Election Commission of Pakistan.
ECP had proposed a poll date between April 30 and May 7, 2023, for holding general elections of the Provincial Assembly of Punjab, and had further suggested holding elections preferably on Sunday,” said a statement issued by President’s House.
It said that the ECP was prepared to fulfil its constitutional and legal duty once the date for elections was selected by the president, adding the commission has written a letter to the governor of Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa, saying the electoral body was waiting for his response regarding the date for polls in the province.
The announcement comes two days after the Supreme Court ruled that the elections to the Punjab and KP assemblies should be held within the stipulated period of 90 days. It; however, allowed the ECP to propose a poll date that deviates from the 90-day deadline by the “barest minimum”, in case of any practical difficulty.
It also held that President Alvi and the KP governor will fix dates for Punjab and KP assemblies, respectively, in consultation with the ECP.
In a letter, the ECP, through the letter to President Alvi, had proposed that the president may choose a date between April 30 and May 7, 2023 – right after Eid – saying the commission would be ready to perform its constitutional and legal duties when the poll date is finalised.
An official statement of the ECP stated that it has sent a letter to the president in the light of the decision of the Supreme Court in which the dates for holding elections in Punjab province have been suggested from April 30 to May 7, 2023. After the president chooses a date, the letter read, “Election Commission is ready to perform its constitutional and legal duties.”
Besides, the statement said that the ECP has also sent a letter to governor KP. While referring to the apex court’s order, the national poll body has stated that “the Election Commission is waiting for your response”.
This is pertinent to mention that despite several obstacles put up by the coalition government, the Punjab and KP assemblies were dissolved on January 14 and January 18, respectively.
Under the constitution, the general elections for KP and Punjab are to be held within 90 days – that means April 14 and April 17 – after the dissolution of assemblies, but the two governors instead of setting dates for elections after receiving the proposal from the ECP had advised the commission to consult stakeholders.
On February 17, President Alvi had invited CEC Raja for an urgent meeting regarding consultations on election dates but the ECP told him he had no role in the announcement of dates for general elections to provincial assemblies and the commission was aware of its constitutional obligation in this regard.
Subsequently, the president unilaterally announced April 9 as the date for holding general elections for the Punjab and KP assemblies.
The move drew sharp criticism from his political opponents, who accused him of acting like a PTI worker while the ECP said it would announce the poll schedule only after the “competent authority” fixes the date.
Meanwhile, in a video message, PTI leader Fawad Chaudhry said that his party has welcomed the ECP’s announcement and called it a step in the right direction.
“We believe that the ECP took the right step in light of the apex court’s order,” he said, elaborating that the apex court had said in its Wednesday’s order that the president and ECP could go beyond the 90-day period of holding polls but it had also used the word bare minimum.
“We congratulate the masses…it’s a victory for the PTI, the nation, and the Constitution,” he added.
Copyright Business Recorder, 2023