Alvi asks ECP to give date for polls in KP, Punjab

Our Correspondent
Thursday, Feb 09, 2023

ISLAMABAD: President Dr Arif Alvi on Wednesday called on the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) to immediately announce the date for polls for Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and Punjab assemblies, putting an end to what he called dangerous speculative propaganda regarding the electoral process.

“I am of the firm view that there are no such circumstances as may furnish any justification for delaying or postponing elections, in fact if such postponements of constitutionally-mandated elections are evaluated throughout the world in the recent history, they have morphed into serious long-term setbacks to democracy,” he said.

Bearing the February 8 date, in the letter, a copy of which is available with this correspondent, the president said the election of an assembly was to be held within 90 days of its dissolution as provided by Article 224 (2) of the Constitution.

“The conduct and holding of elections is the primary and essential duty of the Election Commission of Pakistan as per Part VIIII of the Constitution. In particular, Article 218 (3) casts a duty on the commission to ensure holding of fair and free election. Thus, it is ultimately the commission which if fails to discharge its functions and duties is to be held responsible and answerable for the violation of our Constitution,” he wrote, adding that as the president of Pakistan and the head of state, he is under oath (Article 42 Third Schedule) to preserve, protect and defend the Constitution.

“It is my constitutional responsibility to remind the CEC and members of the commission about their oath (Article 214 Third Schedule) that I will discharge my duties…faithfully in accordance with the Constitution of Islamic Republic of Pakistan and the Elections Act 2017 to avoid serious consequences of breach/violation of the Constitution/law and announce the election schedule of the two dissolved assemblies forthwith.”

He noted that one of the oldest democracies of the current era, the United States of America, was strong because it never delayed its elections. The first war time election, he wrote, was when they were held despite the US being at war with Great Britain in 1812 under President James Madison (during the war even Washington, DC, was captured and burnt). The second war time election was in 1864 during the American Civil War. Top advisers of the then president Abraham Lincoln wanted to postpone elections because of the civil war. Many feared that Lincoln would not win re-election, and further that with civil war going on, elections could not be held.

“Lincoln agreed with his advisers that his chances for winning reelection looked very grim, but he disagreed with those who suggested that he delay the election. Lincoln insisted and said that the civil war was, number one, about democracy, and if you suspend democracy in the middle of the war, you are basically undercutting the whole purpose of the war.” Even when he thought he was going to lose, he never really contemplated suspending the election,” Alvi said.

The president noted that two days after the election, on November 10, 1864, Lincoln made a speech to the audience, saying “we cannot have free government without elections, and that if the rebellion could force us to forego or postpone a national election, it might fairly claim to have already conquered and ruined us.”

The president said the ECP had itself already taken an appropriate constitutional step and announced holding by-elections on National Assembly seats in various constituencies.

“It will thus be in the fitness of things and in accordance with the Constitution and law, i.e. the Elections Act 2017, to immediately announce the date for polls by issuing the election schedule and put an end to dangerous propaganda for these and future general elections,” he emphasised.