ISLAMABAD: With uncertainty shrouding the fate of general elections in the country, President Dr Arif Alvi has held a meeting with Caretaker Law Minister Ahmed Irfan Aslam - apparently over the issue of holding timely general polls.

A brief statement from the presidency issued on Monday said the president “appreciated the Caretaker Prime Minister Mr Anwaar-ul-Haq yesterday’s (Sunday) statement that the caretaker government will abide by the judgement of the Supreme Court of Pakistan on this issue.”

The president said the decisions should be taken in accordance with the “spirit of the constitution” and emphasised the “need for upholding the supremacy of the constitution.”

President House seeks law ministry’s opinion on ECP’s response to Alvi’s letter

The meeting between the president and the caretaker law minister has been held amidst the reports that two top military officials visited the presidency last week to hold a crucial meeting with President Alvi.

Reportedly, the president was “asked” in this meeting not to announce the date for general polls.

The Article 58(1) of the constitution provides that the president shall dissolve the National Assembly, 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.

However, recently, Chief Election Commissioner Sikandar Sultan Raja declined an invitation from President 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, was 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 in a letter written in reply to the president’s invitation letter.

“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 that 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.

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.

Copyright Business Recorder, 2023

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