• Suspends local bodies in KP, Punjab; seeks security briefing on 7th
• Tells LHC it is ready to hold polls in Punjab
ISLAMABAD/LAHORE: While the fate of two provincial assemblies hangs in the balance after the Punjab and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa governors requested the ECP to consult ‘stakeholders’ in the wake of security and economic situation before finalising a schedule, the Election Commission of Pakistan on Friday set March 19 for the by-election on another 31 National Assembly seats.
The ECP, which has announced the schedule for by-polls on 31 seats a week after it had set March 16 as the polling date for by-election on 33 NA seats, is expected to declare a polling date within the next few days for the remaining 22 constituencies of the total 86 vacant seats in the lower house of parliament
Also, the ECP meeting, which was chaired by Chief Election Commissioner Sikandar Sultan Raja, discussed general elections to the Punjab and KP assemblies and decided to meet again on Feb 7 when chief secretaries and police chiefs of both the provinces would brief the commission on measures to ensure ‘safe and peaceful’ conduct of elections to the provincial assemblies. The commission also decided to consult political parties on Feb 9 to finalise a code of conduct.
ECP Secretary Omar Hamid Khan briefed the meeting about the arrangements made so far for the elections to the provincial assemblies of Punjab and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and by-polls in 86 NA constituencies. He explained that after the ECP’s approval, a request was made to the high court registrars of both provinces, through letters, to provide the services of judicial officers to ensure free and fair elections.
The 31 lawmakers de-notified on January 20 were Dr Haider Ali Khan, NA-2; Saleem Rehman, NA-3; Sahibzada Sibghatullah, NA-5; Mehboob Shah, NA-6; Mohammad Bashir Khan, NA-7; Junaid Akbar, NA-8; Sher Akbar Khan, NA-9; Ali Khan Jadoon, NA-16; Engr Usman Khan Tarakai, NA-19; Mujahid Ali, NA-20; Arbab Amir Ayub, NA-28; Sher Ali Arbab, NA-30; Shahid Ahmed, Na-34; Gul Dad Khan, NA-40; Sajid Khan, NA-42; Mohammad Iqbal Khan, NA-44; Aamer Mehmood Kiani, NA-61; Syed Faiz-ul-Hassan,NA-70; Shoukat Ali Bhatti, NA-87; Umar Aslam Khan, NA-93; Amjad Ali Khan, NA-96; Khurram Shahzad, NA-107; Faizullah, 109; Malik Karamat Ali Khokhar, NA-135; Syed Fakhar Imam, NA-150; Zahoor Hussain Qureshi, NA-152; Ibraheem Khan, NA-158; Tahir Iqbal, NA-164; Aurangzeb Khan Khichi, NA-165; Makhdoom Khusro Bakhtiar, NA-177; and Abdul Majeed Khan, NA-187.
Meanwhile, the ECP suspended local governments in KP and cantonment boards in both Punjab and KP provinces to ensure the conduct of free and fair elections to the provincial and National Assembly seats.
‘Ready for elections’
Meanwhile, Lahore High Court Justice Jawad Hassan reminded the commission on Friday that as an independent institution, the ECP should announce an election date ‘on its own’ for the Punjab Assembly.
ECP Legal Director Khurram Shahzad apprised the LHC that the commission was ready to conduct provincial assembly elections and Governor Rehman asked the former consult all stakeholders.
The judge was hearing a petition of PTI secretary general Asad Umar, seeking a direction to the governor and the ECP to give a date for general election in Punjab, following the dissolution of the provincial assembly last month.
The ECP had earlier suggested to the governors of Punjab and KP to select dates from April 9 to 13 for Punjab and from April 15 to 17 for KP Assembly, but the governors refused to pick any date and asked the electoral body to do so after consultations with related stakeholders.
When Asad Umar pointed out that the ECP had announced the date of by-election in 33 NA constituencies across the country, indicating its readiness to conduct elections, the judge remarked that the PTI should be happy with the ECP for giving a schedule for the by-election.
At the outset of the hearing, Advocate Shahzad Shaukat representing Punjab governor objected to the maintainability of Asad Umar’s petition, arguing that the governor had also written letters to former lawmaker Usman Buzdar and the provincial assembly speaker, while the principal secretary to the governor had also sent the same to the ECP secretary.
The PTI leader said the ECP was not giving a date to the PTI for provincial assembly seat elections, despite letters written to it. A federal law officer said no one was refusing to hold the elections, explaining that there was ample time to meet the 90-day deadline. Justice Hassan remarked that at least an election date should be announced as per the Constitution.
However, a proposal from the judge to form a larger bench to decide the matter was rejected by the PTI after which the judge adjourned further hearing till Feb 9, as the counsel for the governor and the ECP sought time to file written replies on the matter.
Published in Dawn, February 4th, 2023
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