LAHORE: Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Governor Haji Ghulam Ali on Monday met his Punjab counterpart Balighur Rehman and caretaker Chief Minister Mohsin Naqvi and agreed that the country could not afford separate elections in current circumstances and, therefore, polls for national and provincial assemblies should be held later this year after the completion of the federal government’s tenure in August.
At the same time, the federal coalition has also declared that there is “no need for new legislation” to take the elections in Punjab and KP beyond 90 days.
The government’s intention not to hold polls in both the provinces within 90 days is adding to the frustration of the PTI leadership which has linked its ‘Jail Bharo Tehreek’ with an inordinate delay in the elections (in Punjab and KP).
“Pakistan can’t afford two separate elections as billions of rupees will be spent on the exercise,” the Punjab governor told reporters here on Monday. He clearly hinted that elections in Punjab and KP would be held once the federal government’s tenure was completed.
“As the general elections are going to take place later this year, demand for an early election in two provinces seems out of place keeping in view economic woes of the country,” Mr Rehman commented.
Law minister says no need for new legislation in case polls delayed beyond 90 days
Talking to journalists on Monday, federal Law Minister Azam Nazir Tarar also maintained that there was no need for new legislation for holding elections (in Punjab and KP) after 90 days. “The respective institutions will have to give solid reasons for not holding elections within 90 days,” he added.
Both the governors had already opted for a similar stance for not giving a date for the elections in Punjab and KP and advised the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) to consult relevant authorities and take stock of the current security and economic situation before deciding the matter.
A reliable source in the federal government told Dawn on Monday that all coalition partners were unanimous to hold general elections on national and provincial assemblies on one date, probably this October-November.
“The federal coalition which has its caretaker setups in Punjab and KP will use all its resources to continue frustrating the PTI for its demand to hold elections in both provinces within 90 days,” he said, adding that the PML-N-led coalition would make sure at ‘all levels’ that elections in Punjab and KP were not held in 90 days.
The PTI has told the Shehbaz Sharif administration that it may attend the Feb 9 multi-party conference (MPC) on militancy, provided the government stops victimising its leaders forthwith and gives a date for elections in Punjab and KP. There has been a sense of ‘despondency’ in the PTI ranks for quitting national, Punjab and KP assemblies.
“Our calculations seem to have gone wrong somehow as neither we managed to push the PML-N-led government to hold polls in both provinces in 90 days nor has there been any let-up in political victimisation of our party men,” a PTI leader told Dawn.
“We have not played our cards well by quitting both provincial governments, giving a full advantage to the PML-N to torment and frustrate us,” he said.
Published in Dawn, February 7th, 2023