ISLAMABAD: The Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) has started considering options to carry out delimitation of constituencies in the minimum possible time, sources told Dawn.
The commission had earlier come under attack from the PTI after one of its senior officials claimed that there were legal challenges and logistical issues in holding elections in three months.
However, the commission has now geared up to find ways and means to complete the required tasks at the earliest.
Sources in the ECP said Chief Election Commissioner (CEC) Sikandar Sultan Raja was chairing meetings to discuss the constitutional crisis arising out of the assailed dissolution of the National Assembly and the ECP’s preparations in case the Supreme Court refused to set aside Deputy Speaker Qasim Suri’s ruling on the no-trust motion and the subsequent dissolution of the assembly.
Section 17 (2) of the Elections Act 2017 directs the ECP to delimit constituencies after every census is officially notified. The current delimitation had been carried out on the basis of provisional results of the 2017 census under a one-time waiver of the legal provision.
Even after the publication of final results of the census in May last year, the commission did not conduct delimitation, perhaps because of the declared intention of the PTI to carry out fresh census in 2023.
A source said the ECP was yet to reach a decision on how to manage early delimitation, adding that one of the possible solutions could be squeezing timelines for delimitation exercise through a presidential ordinance.
He said the law provided for one month to invite objections followed by a process of hearing, adding that if the objections were heard simultaneously, it could save time.
Meanwhile, the ECP had to clarify that it had not issued any statement about holding of elections, but at the same time did not say whether it was ready to conduct the polls in three months.
Reacting to the remarks of an ECP official, PTI vice chairman and former foreign minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi, in a statement, said the commission was a constitutional institution, mandated to hold free and fair elections.
He said the prime minister had the constitutional authority to move toward elections by advising dissolution of the National Assembly anytime.
“If this is so why the ECP is not ready? What are they drawing salaries for? Why they continue to hold offices if they cannot meet their constitutional responsibility,” Mr Qureshi wondered.
He said the country was faced with a situation of uncertainty. “On one hand we see instability in Afghanistan while on the other, India was hell bent upon disrupting peace in the region by steps like accidental firing of a missile,” he added.
Noting that continued uncertainty was not in the country’s interest, the former foreign minister said the only solution was holding of timely free and fair elections. He said the remarks that the ECP was not prepared for timely elections was an admission of the commission’s failure and should be taken strong notice of.
On the other hand, former human rights minister Dr Shireen Mazari tweeted: “How can ECP say this when they have to be prepared to hold elections in three months? Shows mala fide intent? Mere coincidence that this comes after cry baby Bilawal declares elections cannot be held in 3 months? PPP not prepared to go into elections after their extinction in KP LG!”
She said the ECP should investigate if some of its officials had given such a statement or a deliberate false story had been published.
Former information and law minister Fawad Chaudhry also chose to take to Twitter to directly allege that it was fake news.
Similarly, Farrukh Habib, who had served as the minister of state for information, said in a tweet: “Under article 224 of the constitution, the ECP was bound to hold elections within 90 days in case of dissolution of the Assembly.”
Ahsan seeks action against Imran
Meanwhile, PML-N secretary general Ahsan Iqbal on Tuesday sought the arrest of interim prime minister Imran Khan, National Assembly Deputy Speaker Qasim Suri and former law minister Fawad Chaudhry for allegedly subverting the Constitution.
Talking to reporters outside the ECP, Mr Iqbal accused Imran Khan of trampling the Constitution on the pretext of ‘surprise’ and insisted that he should be punished for lying. He hoped the Supreme Court would play its role as there was no space whatsoever for leniency.
He alleged that in order to continue holding the office, Imran Khan had plunged Pakistan into another constitutional crisis and insisted that he had made a scandal on the basis of a routine communication from a Pakistani ambassador.
Ahsan Iqbal explained that ambassadors, in routine, send details of their meetings, analysis and recommendations, but from now on, no envoy would do so.
The PML-N leader claimed that Imran Niazi had destroyed Pakistan’s diplomacy and had attacked its very foundation.
He further said the interim prime minister had tried to drag the military into his lie, as to his information, the National Security Committee (NSC) had not said the opposition’s no-trust motion had anything to do with a foreign agenda.
“Imran Niazi tried to give the impression as if the armed forces chiefs had also supported the scandal by repeatedly referring to the NSC meeting. He also mounted an assault on the Pakistani security by distorting the proceedings and minutes of the NSC meeting,” he added.
He termed the steps taken by Imran Khan day-light robbery and insisted that no concession should be given to him in this matter.
He said the orders being given by Imran Khan had no constitutional or legal status, adding that whoever would comply with these, would face Article 6 of the Constitution.
Ahsan Iqbal said when Imran Khan foresaw his defeat, he ran away, pulling out the wickets, adding that his actions had embarrassed Pakistan before the world.
Published in Dawn, April 6th, 2022