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ISLAMABAD: A day after the Supreme Court of Pakistan asked the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) to disclose a definitive date for general elections in the country, the top electoral body on Friday announced to hold general elections on February 08 next year.

In a statement issued here, the ECP said “pursuant to order passed by Supreme Court of Pakistan dated November 02, 2023 and subsequent meeting with President Dr Arif Alvi, the ECP in exercise of its powers under Section 57(1) of Election Act 2017 and other powers enabling it in that behalf hereby announces February 08, 2024 as poll date for general elections to National Assembly and provincial assemblies of Punjab, Sindh, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and Balochistan”.

The Chief Election Commissioner Sikander Sultan Raja who had once said a recent amendment to the Clause 57 of Election Act meant that giving election date was the sole prerogative of the ECP as he responded to the letter sent by President Arif Alvi.

However, the beleaguered CEC Raja rushed to the President House along with four ECP members and Attorney General for Pakistan Mansoor Awan when the apex court pressed him to submit a report to the court after agreeing on a definitive date for elections after consulting the president.

An interim set-up led by caretaker Prime Minister Anwaar-ul-Haq Kakar has been running the country since parliament was dissolved on August 9.

The general elections were supposed to be held within 90 days after parliament’s dissolution, but the ECP said it needed time to complete fresh delimitation after the latest census.

It is constitutionally mandated that polls can be held only after constituencies are redrawn according to the latest population count, a process that would take at least four months, the ECP said previously.

However, with the country’s main opposition party, Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI), and its leader, incarcerated former Prime Minister Imran Khan, having faced months of a nationwide crackdown, concerns have been raised about whether the caretaker government and the ECP are capable of holding fair elections.

Khan and his government were removed in April last year through a parliamentary vote of no confidence. The 70-year-old politician, who had been campaigning across the country to hold early elections after his removal, was jailed on August 5 on corruption charges.

Later, a court suspended his three-year sentence but he has remained in prison over charges related to the “cipher case”, in which he is accused of making public the contents of a diplomatic cable for political gains.

Copyright Business Recorder, 2023

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