ISLAMABAD, July 22: The Election Commission of Pakistan turned down on Monday a request made by the government to change the date for presidential election and said the poll would be held on Aug 6 as already announced by the commission.
Sources told Dawn that ECP Secretary Ishtiak Ahmad Khan had written a letter to the law secretary informing him that the government’s request had been placed before the commission comprising the chief election commissioner and four provincial members, but they declined to accept it on the grounds that any change in the schedule was not possible at this ‘belated’ stage.
An ECP official claimed that no concrete reason for changing the schedule had been given by the government. He said it was still possible for Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif and other lawmakers to cast their votes and then leave for Saudi Arabia to perform Umra on the night of 27th Ramazan.
The polling will start at 10am.
The government had on Friday sought a slight change in the schedule because some people had already planned to perform Umra and observe Aitekaf.
After examining legal and technical aspects of the matter, the ECP secretariat immediately prepared a summary ruling out the possibility of any change in the schedule. The government’s request, along with the secretariat’s summary, was placed before the commission on Monday. The ECP rejected the government’s plea.
When contacted, a federal minister said the decision would be challenged in court. He said a number of lawmakers observing Aitekaf would not be able to come for casting their vote. “It is difficult for us to ask people not to observe Aitekaf and sacrifice their intent for an electoral exercise, and even if we do that, many will find it difficult to follow.”
He said the government had not proposed any date for the presidential election and was ready to accept any date even after 27th of Ramazan.
A PML-N leader said the ECP should convene a consultative session to decide on an agreed date. The term of the incumbent president is to expire on Sept 8 and it will not make any difference if the polling is delayed for a week or so.
He said the argument that holding the election after Aug 8 would be a violation of the constitution was not valid because it had been done by the ECP on various occasions. He pointed out that a National Assembly constituency remained without representation for five years as elections could not be held there in 2008 and afterwards. The elections in another NA constituency could not take place on the same ground on May 11.
The PML-N leader said that under the law the ECP was bound to fill vacant assembly seats within 60 days, but by-elections in 42 national and provincial assembly constituencies were being held on August 22 – beyond the period specified in the law.
According to the schedule announced by the ECP, nomination papers are to be submitted on July 24 and their scrutiny will be held on July 26. The papers may be withdrawn on July 29 when the final list of candidates will be issued.
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