ISLAMABAD: Gearing up for the largest by-polls for 93 general seats of the National Assembly and general elections for the two recently-dissolved provincial assemblies, the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) has proposed conducting polls for Punjab and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa legislatures between April 9 and 17 and sought an additional supplementary grant of over Rs14 billion for the purpose.

Separately, President Dr Arif Alvi on Wednesday met Punjab Governor Balighur Rehman and asked him to announce a date for elections in the province in the wake of dissolution of the Punjab Assembly.

In separate letters sent to principal secretaries of the two provinces, copies of which are available with Dawn, the ECP has suggested elections in Punjab between April 9 and 13, and in KP between April 15 and 17.

The Punjab Assembly was dissolved on Jan 14 and the KP Assembly on Jan 18.

Seeks Rs14bn more in supplementary grant; president asks governor to announce polls in Punjab ‘without delay’

The letters issued with the signatures of ECP Secretary Omar Hamid Khan cited Article 224 of the Constitution requiring holding of elections for an assembly within 90 days of its dissolution.

The ECP said that under Article 105(3)(a) of the Constitution, the governor is mandated to fix a date, not later than 90 days from the date of dissolution of the assembly, for holding elections.

The ECP stressed that the election date may not be taken beyond April 13 in case of Punjab and April 17 in case of KP.

Additional grant

In a related development, the ECP has approached the finance ministry, seeking release of over Rs20bn out of the approved funds, and an additional supplementary grant of over Rs14bn.

In a letter to the finance secretary, the ECP has pointed out that in the emerging situation, general elections for provincial assemblies of Punjab and KP and by-elections on 93 vacant seats of the National Assembly have to be conducted within 90 days and 60 days after the dissolution of two provincial assemblies and resignations of members of the National Assembly, respectively.

For conducting elections for Punjab and KP assemblies, Rs25.44bn, out of approved Rs47.417bn, needs to be released during the current financial year, the letter said, adding that Rs5bn has already been released.

“The remaining sum of Rs20.544 billion may please be released at the earliest. In view of the above-mentioned facts, total cost of general elections has increased from Rs47.417bn to Rs61.805bn and, therefore, an additional technical supplementary grant of Rs14.388bn will be required for conduct of general elections in the country in phases,” the letter read.

All the three letters had been written on Tuesday and emerged on Wednesday, just before the ECP de-notified another 43 members of the National Assembly belonging to the PTI, bringing the total number of resignations accepted over the past nine days to 113, including 86 general seats and 23 reserved seats for women and four for religious minorities.

Election date

President Arif Alvi discussed the elections with Governor Balighur Rehman and asked him to announce a date for elections in Punjab without any further delay, sources told Dawn.

The provincial legislature stood dissolved on Jan 14, but the governor has yet to announce elections that are to be held within 90 days of the dissolution as per the Constitution.

When asked why there was a delay on the part of the governor over the announcement of elections in Punjab and if he had responded to the ECP letter in this respect, the governor’s principal secretary Nabeel Awan told Dawn: “The governor’s office will definitely respond in a day or two.”

Zulqernain Tahir in Lahore also contributed to this report

Published in Dawn, January 26th, 2023

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