News Analysis: All stakeholders unsure about timely polls in Punjab, KP

Ansar Abbasi
Saturday, Jan 28, 2023

ISLAMABAD: All the stakeholders have doubts about the holding of elections for Punjab and KP assemblies within 90 days, however, it is not clear as yet what method of madness would be adopted to go beyond what is clearly envisaged in the Constitution of Pakistan.

Opposition voices like Imran Khan and Shaikh Rashid have unambiguously said that the PDM government has no intention to hold elections within the stipulated time period against which they intend to knock at the doors of the courts.

The ruling PDM does not talk in public about their reluctance to go into polls but the alliance leaders are considering different options to ensure that the elections in the two provinces are not held and delayed for an indefinite period.

Sources in the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) insist that they are preparing for Punjab and KP assembly polls in April this year, but they also have doubts. These sources fear that something may happen to delay the elections.

The ECP sources said that as per the constitution after the dissolution of the assemblies, the provincial governors are required to announce the date of the elections, which should be held within 90 days of the dissolution of the assemblies. But still, these sources said, the ECP formally approached both the governors and suggested tentative elections dates as well. None of governors have so far either announced the date of polls in their respective provinces or responded to the ECP.

The PDM parties, particularly the PMLN, publicly say that they are prepared to contest the provincial assemblies’ election and do not seek any delay in the polls. However, in private they are discussing different options to postpone the polls in the two provinces.

A key PMLN leader when approached and asked whether or not the elections will be held within 90 days, he said, “No” on condition of not being named. The PDM top leaders including Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif, Asif Ali Zardari and Maulana Fazlur Rehman also met last night in Islamabad and according to media reports, they decided to delay the polls. No official word of the meeting was available but it is reported that polls in these provinces will be held on the basis of fresh census and delimitations.

According to a PDM leader, the constitution does say that the election will be held within 90 days of the dissolution of the assembly but in case the polls are not held within the stipulated time period, it won’t be a violation of the constitution. He explained that Article 254 covers such situations.

The Articles 254 reads as: “When any act or thing is required by the Constitution to be done within a particular period and it is not done within that period, the doing of the act or thing shall not be invalid or other-wise ineffective by reason only that it was not done within that period.” It is also discussed by the PDM that the constitution of Pakistan does not envisage national and provincial assemblies’ elections at different times. For general elections, it is said, the constitution provides for caretaker setups both at the Centre and in the provinces.

The PDM explained if the elections for Punjab and KP assemblies are held now and the general elections for the National Assembly are held later then there won’t be caretaker setups in these provinces to ensure free, fair and impartial elections. Political governments in these provinces, in such a case, can neither be removed before the completion of their term nor replaced by a caretaker government for 90 days.