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No country has aired concern yet about ‘poll delay’

Our Correspondent
Tuesday, Aug 29, 2023

ISLAMABAD: The Foreign Office has not yet received any communication from any capital expressing concern about potential delays in parliamentary elections. In the event that any country raises doubts, the authorities can address any objections they may have.

Highly placed sources within the Foreign Office informed The News on Monday that the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) has already stated unequivocally that there are no plans to postpone the elections. Meanwhile, Foreign Affairs spokeswoman Mumtaz Zahar Baloch clarified that she has no knowledge of any messages from any capital on this matter, as the positions of Pakistan and other countries are already known on the issue. Some senior diplomats have suggested that a delay in the polls could adversely affect Pakistan’s relationships with established democratic nations. A few countries have engaged with the relevant authorities involved in the electoral process to gauge the possibility of any unwarranted postponement of the general elections. Sources revealed that the government is well aware of the European Union’s stance and the International Monetary Fund’s (IMF) perspective on the matter. If parliamentary elections are deferred without valid reasons, the GSP-plus trade facility could come under scrutiny. It has been reported that the US Ambassador to Pakistan, Donald Blome, and some other senior Western diplomats had held meetings with high-ranking officials in Pakistan, including caretaker Prime Minister Anwaar Kakar and Chief Election Commissioner (CEC) Sikandar Sultan Raja. These meetings aimed to gain firsthand assessments of the situation. It’s understood that these countries have closely followed the developments in Pakistan regarding election preparations and maintained communication with relevant parties to emphasise the preservation of a democratic environment. These nations have consistently supported and promoted democratic norms in countries of interest to them. The concern raised by democratic capitals stems from a malicious campaign orchestrated by certain elements that have previously undermined peace and stability in the country. These elements suggest that the incumbent caretaker administration could extend its tenure beyond the constitutionally mandated period.

Sources noted that Pakistan has adequately briefed important capitals on the post-dissolution developments in national and provincial legislatures. The government has assured these capitals that the action will strictly adhere to the Constitution and law. The restriction to hold elections within 90 days following assembly dissolution, as stipulated in the Constitution, has been communicated. However, the sources of these constituencies, which form the basis for democratic elections, are of paramount importance to ensure fairness and smooth conduct of polls. Relevant sections and articles of the Constitution have been cited by the interlocutors representing Pakistan. Most capitals seem satisfied with Islamabad’s explanations, the sources reported.

The sources pointed out that the US ambassador, British High Commissioner, EU representative, and envoys from other democratic countries maintain active contact with Pakistani high-ranking officials. They have been assured that Pakistan is progressing smoothly in terms of elections. No law pertaining to holding free and fair elections will be disregarded, and law-abiding political leaders and parties will have the freedom to contest without discrimination. Interestingly, the statement released by the US Embassy following the ambassador’s meeting with the CEC emphasised that the choice of Pakistan’s future leaders is the prerogative of the Pakistani people. The US remains committed to deepening bilateral relations with whomever the people choose. Identical sentiments were expressed by the US mission after the envoy’s meeting with the caretaker Prime Minister, which occurred the next day.

The sources highlighted that the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) had recently clarified that there are no intentions to delay elections once the delimitation process concludes. Speculation arose that updating electoral rolls based on new delimitations could lead to further delays. The ECP dismissed the concern, explaining that updating electoral rolls and delimitation can proceed concurrently, as this is not an uncommon practice and would not cause any delay in elections. The ECP has already set December 14 as the deadline for completing the constituency delimitation process, and the enrollment of new voters will also be completed by this deadline.

According to sources within the Foreign Office, there have been no communications with any capital regarding the elections or the potential for delays.

“The status of preparations for free and fair elections in the country is well known to all key nations,” they affirmed.