ISLAMABAD: The Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) on Thursday proposed conducting general elections in the country by October.

In his statement before the Supreme Court on Thursday night, when asked whether the ECP would be ready to hold election in 90 days, Chief Election Commissioner Sikander Sultan Raja explained that despite repeated requests to the government to allow delimitation of the constituencies, it could not be held in time.

He told the court that the commission would take a minimum of four months to conduct the delimitation and another 90 days for the general elections.

The CEC said that he personally wrote 16 letters to the government from May 2020 to 2021 seeking permission to conduct the delimitation but the government was interested in digital census.

Commission seeks meeting with President Alvi for further deliberation

The final letter was written in January, he said, adding that delimitation had to be held in the entire country for which they would be needing four to seven months.

Separately, in its response to a letter from the Presidency, the ECP held that “[it] would... require at least four additional months to complete the exercise of delimitation. Elections could safely be held honestly justly fairly as ordained in Article 18(3) of the Constitution, in October 2022.”

The commission has also sought a meeting with President Dr Arif Alvi for further deliberation.

The Election Commission of Pakistan said that it was not the sole authority to make decisions with regards to the conduct of elections and it remained dependent, under law upon the federal and provincial governments for required feedback.

“In case of any inaction or delay on the part of any government to perform its duties and to assist the commission, the delay in conduct of delimitation cannot be attributed to the commission by any stretch of imagination,” the response added.

It said the Election Commission of Pakistan was an independent constitutional entity, entrusted with the sacred duty of organising and conducting elections in terms of Article 218(3) of the Constitution and to make such arrangements as are necessary to ensure that the election was conducted honestly, justly, fairly and in accordance with the law, and that corrupt practices were guarded against.

The Election Commission of Pakistan said delimitation of constituencies was one of the foundational steps towards election.

Former law minister Fawad Chaudhry later in a tweet asked the ECP to reconsider its position. “Attempting to hold elections for more than 90 days would be a serious violation of the Constitution,” he said.

He noted that the country’s economy could not stand seven months of political turmoil. “Pakistan cannot be allowed to become Sri Lanka. Elections are required within 90 days for early political stability,” he said.

Meanwhile, the Election Commission of Pakistan has convened a meeting on the current political situation in the country on Friday (today) at 10am. CEC Silandar Sultan Raja will chair the meeting.

Published in Dawn, April 8th, 2022

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