ISLAMABAD: The Election Comm­i­ssion of Pakistan (ECP) will announce schedule for the coming general elections in the last week of the current month, preceded by a number of key election-related activities.

A senior ECP official told Dawn that the schedule for the elections in all probability was to be announced on May 28 or 29. A week before the anno­u­ncement of the election schedule, President Mamnoon Hussain, in consultation with the ECP, would anno­unce the date for elections, he added.

He pointed out that under Section 57 (1) of the Elections Act, the president would announce the date or dates of the elections after consultation with the commission, while under sub-section 2 within seven days of the announcement, the commission would, through a notification in the official gazette and by publication on its website, call on the voters of the notified assembly constituencies to elect their representatives.

The ECP official said delimitation of constituencies and electoral rolls would be notified in a few days. He said the appointment of district returning officers (DROs) and returning officers (ROs) would be made soon after issuance of the notification of delimitation of constituencies. He said the DROs and ROs would be drawn from the judiciary and lists had already been received from the high courts. The DROs and ROs will be imparted five-day training during the current month.

Delimitation of constituencies, electoral rolls to be notified in a few days, to be followed by appointment of returning officers

When asked to comment on the objection of Leader of the Opposition in the National Assembly Syed Khursheed Shah over ‘the ECP’s failure’ to announce an action plan for the elections four months before the polls, the official said the preparation of an action plan, and not announcement, was a legal requirement.

He said Section 14 (1) of the Elections Act referred to by the opposition leader read, “The Commission shall, at least four months before the general election is due to be held on expiry of the term of an Assembly, prepare a comprehensive Action Plan specifying all legal and administrative measures that have been taken or required to be taken in respect of the election…” He said the commission had prepared an action plan and was on track.

The opposition leader had also said that under Section 22 of the Elections Act, the ECP was required to notify new constituencies 120 days before the election date. He had said the ECP was due to notify delimitation of constituencies on May 4, which meant that the elections should be held in the first week of September. On the other hand, he said, the National Assembly was completing its term on June 1 and under the Constitution the elections should be held within 60 days after the expiry of the five-year term of the assembly.

When asked to comment on this, the ECP official admitted that the act would have to be violated, but insisted that the Constitution was supreme. He said the ECP was not responsible for delayed passage of the Elections Act. “We have not wasted a single day and have started delimitation exercise as per dictates of the law immediately after the passage of the act. Can we notify constituencies without following the due process and hearing objections against them?” he asked.

He said parliament should have considered this scenario before the passage of the bill, and even now it had time to rectify the mistake.

Published in Dawn, May 2nd, 2018