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ISLAMABAD: Chief Election Commissioner Sikandar Sultan Raja has declined the invitation of President of Pakistan Dr Arif Alvi for a meeting over the issue of choosing a date for general polls, dismissing such a meeting as of “scant consequence,” asserting that the electoral body, not the president, is empowered to pick the general elections’ date— under the prevailing circumstances.

“Where the president dissolves the National Assembly, in his discretion, as provided in Article 58(2) read with Article 48(5) of the constitution, then he has to appoint a date for the general elections. However, if, the assembly is dissolved on the advice of the prime minister, or by afflux of time, as provided in Article 58(1) of the constitution, then the commission understands and believes that the power to appoint a date or dates for elections rests exclusively with the commission,” the CEC stated on Thursday, in a letter written in reply to President Alvi’s letter from a day earlier.

“The commission believes with utmost respect that the reliance placed on the provisions of the constitution mentioned in your subject letter are not applicable in the present context,” the CEC added.

The letter said the NA was dissolved by the president in terms of Article 58(1) of the constitution, on the advice of the PM, through the summary dated August 9.

The letter stated that prior to the amendment of Section 57(1) of the Elections Act 2017, the president was required to consult the commission under this section before appointing a date for election. However, after the amendment in Section 57, the commission has been empowered to announce the date or dates for the general polls, it added.

“It is on record that the National Assembly was dissolved on the advice of the prime minister, therefore, the provisions of Article 48(5) are not attracted thereto,” CEC Raja stated in the letter.

“In view of the above, the commission is of the considered view that participation in the meeting would be of scant consequence,” the CEC concluded.

The Article 58(1) of the constitution provides that the president shall dissolve the NA if so advised by the PM; and the NA shall, unless sooner dissolved, stand dissolved at the expiration of 48 hours after the PM has so advised.

The Article 58(2) reads that the president may also dissolve the NA in his discretion where, a vote of no-confidence having been passed against the PM, no other member of the NA commands the confidence of the majority of the house members.

After being amended by the Parliament in June this year, the Section 57(1) of Elections Act 2017 empowers the ECP to announce date(s) for the general election(s).

Previously, under this section, the president had the power to announce the date(s) of the general election(s) after consultation with the commission.

Earlier on Wednesday, the president, through a letter, invited the CEC, to a meeting, on the same day or Thursday, to “fix an appropriate date” for general elections.

“And whereas by virtue of Article 48(5) of the Constitution of the Islamic Republic of Pakistan, the President is obliged to appoint a date not later than 90 days from the date of dissolution for the holding of general elections of Assembly,” the letter stated.

Copyright Business Recorder, 2023

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