Elections to be held in last week of January: ECP

News Desk
Friday, Sep 22, 2023

ISLAMABAD: The Election Commission of Pakistan on Thursday sought to do away with the uncertainty surrounding the general elections, as it announced that the polls would be held in the last week of January next year, though staying short of giving an exact date.

The electoral body in a statement further said after reviewing progress on the delimitation process, it had decided that the final list of constituencies would be published on November 30 after hearing objections and suggestions related to delimitations. Subsequently, it added, the polls would be held in the last week of January 2024 following the completion of 54-day election schedule.

It said a preliminary list of the delimitation of constituencies, which is under way in line with the new population census, would be published on September 27.

The ECP statement would help ease uncertainty surrounding the elections as the previous Pakistan Democratic Movement (PDM)-led government’s move to approve a new census mandated the electoral body to carry out new delimitation of constituencies before holding polls, sparking fears of an undue delay in polls.

Following the premature dissolution of national and provincial assemblies earlier in August this year, the ECP was required to hold elections within the stipulated period of 90 days, meaning the polls should take place no later than November 6. However, the ECP said it was constitutionally bound to draw fresh boundaries ahead of the elections, hence holding elections within a 90-day time period was not possible.

The development comes days after President Dr Arif Alvi suggested a cut-off date for holding the polls in a letter to the Chief Election Commissioner. However, the ECP had maintained the President was no longer empowered to fix the date for polls after amendments to election laws.

Meanwhile, major political parties in the former ruling alliance have welcomed the development, hoping that it would address the apprehensions regarding the political situation of the country, Geo News reported.

Reacting to the development, Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N), Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) and Muttahida Qaumi Movement-Pakistan (MQM-P) viewed it as positive. However, the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) decided to challenge the move in court.

Speaking to Geo News, PTI’s core committee member Niazullah Niazi said the Constitution calls for elections within 90 days and exceeding the period is unlawful.

“We will challenge the Election Commission’s decision. The way the ECP is working it does not look like a constitutional institution,” Niazi said.

Senior PML-N leader Ahsan Iqbal said his party welcomed the decision by the ECP as it has ended the uncertainty about the delimitation. “Everyone knew from the first day that the election commission was bound to conduct delimitation after the census,” said Iqbal. He further said uncertainty should end after the announcement of polls, adding all the parties should start preparations now. PPP leader Qamar Zaman Kaira, in a carefully worded response, said he could give his own opinion on the matter but viewed the development as “positive”.

While speaking to Geo News, Kaira said he is not in a position to share his party’s version which had been demanding the ECP to announce the election schedule as per the Constitution. The former federal minister said uncertainty would end and things would hopefully move in a positive direction. “Let’s hope for the best.” The ANP — a member of the former ruling alliance — urged the poll organising authority to fix a date for the elections. When asked to comment on the ECP announcement, senior ANP leader Zahid Khan said it is their demand that elections be held in 90 days and the party raised the same issue when they met Chief Election Commissioner Sikandar Sultan Raja. He, however, mentioned that the electoral body had shared its obligations and expressed the inability to hold polls in 90 days.

MQM-P leader Mustafa Kamal hailed the government and the ECP for fulfilling their demand of holding elections after carrying out fresh delimitation. “Yes, we are satisfied with this development,” he told Geo News. However, he said it is yet to be seen whether the ECP would address the party’s concerns regarding the demarcation of constituencies after publishing an initial list of delimitation.

The former Karachi mayor said his party would file a complaint if they found any problem with the delimitation process. Kamal also said fair and free elections are not possible in Sindh in the presence of the incumbent provincial chief election commissioner.