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ISLAMABAD, July 16: The Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) announced on Tuesday that election to the office of the president would be held on Aug 6.

President Asif Ali Zardari has already announced that he will not seek another term after his present five-year tenure expires on Sept 8.

According to the election schedule, nomination papers will be received by presiding officers in Islamabad, Lahore, Karachi, Quetta and Peshawar till 12 noon on July 24. The papers will be scrutinised by Chief Election Commissioner retired Justice Fakhruddin G. Ebrahim in Islamabad at 10am on July 26. The last date for withdrawal of candidature is July 29 and a final list of candidates will be published the same day. The polling will be held on Aug 6, simultaneously at the Parliament House, Islamabad, and at the buildings of four provincial assemblies from 10am to 3pm.

Islamabad High Court Chief Justice Muhammad Anwar Khan Kasi has been appointed as presiding officer for the Parliament House and Lahore High Court Chief Justice Umar Atta Bandial, Sindh High Court Chief Justice Mushir Alam, Peshawar High Court Chief Justice Dost Mohammad Khan and Balochistan High Court Chief Justice Qazi Faiz Essa for the provincial legislatures in Lahore, Karachi, Peshawar and Quetta, respectively. They will preside over the joint session of the two houses of parliament and the provincial assemblies’ sessions for the polling.

The PML-N appears to be in a comfortable position and is expected to win the presidential election hands down. The new president will be the second head of state to be elected in Ramazan — the first being Rafiq Tar elected in 1997. The new president will be the first to be elected under Article 41 (4) of the constitution which requires holding of the election not earlier than 60 days and not later than 30 days before the expiry of the term of the incumbent president.

Dozens of constituencies will not be represented in the presidential elections mainly because of a deviation from the constitution in holding by-elections beyond the period of 60 days for seats having fallen vacant.

Members of the two houses of parliament and the provincial assemblies form the electoral college for the presidential polls. The polling will be by secret ballot and ballot papers will carry the names of candidates in alphabetical order.

Article 41 (2) of the constitution states that a person shall not be qualified for election unless he is a Muslim of not less than 45 years of age and qualified to be elected as member of the National Assembly.

But what appears to be a clear negation of the spirit of the constitutional provision, convicts, mentally deranged persons and government employees can contest for the post without the fear of getting disqualified. The ECP amended the rule governing the presidential election on Sept 10, 2007, to take away the disqualification provision — less than a month before the polls comfortably won by then military ruler Gen Pervez Musharraf.

Key opposition leaders Benazir Bhutto and Nawaz Sharif were in exile that time. The amendment to presidential rules, which is still in force, was kept a guarded secret by the ECP until it was disclosed by then minister for parliamentary affairs Dr Sher Afgan.

In the now defunct section 5(3)(a) of the presidential election rules, the returning officer had the authority to conduct a summary inquiry and reject any nomination paper on satisfaction that the candidate concerned was disqualified under the constitution to be elected as president.

The section was simply struck off. The justification for the abrupt amendment was that it was meant to make the rule conform to two judgments of the Supreme Court issued in 2002 and 2005. Interestingly, Chief Justice Iftikhar Mohammad Chaudhry was a member of both the benches.