President Arif Alvi on Wednesday urged the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) to “immediately announce” the date for polls in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and Punjab and put an end to “dangerous speculative propaganda” on both the provincial assembly and general elections.
The Punjab and KP assemblies were dissolved on Jan 18 and Jan 14, respectively, after former prime minister Imran Khan had announced that his governments in the two provinces would dissolve their assemblies to pave the way for fresh elections.
In a letter addressed to Chief Election Commissioner Sikandar Sultan Raja today, a copy of which is available with Dawn.com, Alvi said that the election of an assembly is to be held within 90 days of the dissolution as provided by Article 224(2) of the Constitution.
He highlighted that the conduct and holding of elections was the primary and essential duty of the ECP as per PART VIII of the Constitution, particularly Article 218 (3) which assigned the duty to the ECP to ensure the holding of fair and free elections.
The president conveyed that it was ultimately the commission, which if it failed to discharge its functions and duties, was to be held responsible and answerable for the violation of the Constitution of the country.
Alvi stressed that he was under the oath “to preserve, protect and defend the Constitution” being the head of the state.
He reminded the CEC and other ECP members about their fundamental duty as per their oath under Article 214 and Third Schedule of the Constitution, which says “I will discharge my duties……faithfully in accordance with the Constitution of Islamic Republic of Pakistan”, and the Elections Act, 2017 to avoid serious consequences of breach/violation of the Constitution/law and announce election schedule of the two dissolved assemblies forthwith.
The president went on to say that one of the oldest democracies of the current era, the United States of America, was strong because “it has never delayed its elections”.
“I am of the firm view that there are no such circumstances as may furnish any justification for delaying or postponing of elections, in fact if such postponements of constitutionally mandated elections are evaluated throughout the world in recent history, they have morphed into serious long term set-backs to democracy,” he stated.
The ECP, President Alvi continued, has itself already taken an appropriate constitutional step and announced the holding of bye-elections on the National Assembly seats of various differently situated constituencies.
“It will thus be in the fitness of things and in accordance with Constitution and law i.e. Elections Act, 2017, to immediately announce the date of polls by issuing election schedule and put an end to such dangerous speculative propaganda for these and future general elections,” he added.
Ruling coalition insists on ‘elections in one go’
President Alvi’s letter comes a day after the ruling coalition insisted that the country could not afford separate polls, confirming its intention that elections in Punjab and KP within 90 days were not going to happen.
PML-N leader Saad Rafique said in a press conference on Tuesday that elections should be held simultaneously as the country could not afford separate polls amid a precarious economic situation.
“Elections should be held in the country at one time,” he made it clear.
Similarly, the prime minister’s special assistants, Malik Ahmad Khan and Attaullah Tarar, also spoke the government’s mind to hold elections of the National and provincial assemblies on the same day after completion of the tenure of the federal coalition.
Malik Ahmad Khan was very categorical about the delay in polls in KP and Punjab, saying the Constitution doesn’t say anything about holding elections within 90 days. “We cannot meet the demands of Imran Khan,” the PML-N leaders said.
‘Court arrest’ drive if polls delayed, says Imran
On the other hand, PTI chairman Imran Khan has linked his Jail Bharo Tehreek (court arrest drive) to a delay in elections to the Punjab and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa assemblies beyond the stipulated 90-day period.
In a video message, released from his Zaman Park residence earlier this week, the ex-premier said: “It has been 25 days since the dissolution of the assemblies, yet no election date has been announced, which is a violation of the Constitution — a case for invoking Article 6.”
In his message, he linked the drive to violation of the mandatory 90-day period for election to provincial assemblies to be held, saying, “All big nations obey law. It is the Constitution that decides what is legal and what is not. I want to clarify that we dissolved assemblies believing in the Constitution and constitutional process, which everyone is supposed to uphold. It binds all to hold elections within 90 days and they must be held in specific time, otherwise Article 6 will chase the violators.”
“We have reached a point, where we have two options. One is to come on roads and go for wheel-jam but it will hurt Pakistan economically. The other is to allow this ‘imported’ government to have its desire to put us behind the bar, thus the Jail Bharo Tehreek. I want volunteers to register with district presidents.”
“Within a few days, I will give a date for launch of the court arrest movement,” he added.
Imran also took a dig on the KP and Punjab governors and Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) for not giving election dates. “Constitution is clear about the imposition of Article 6 against the violators if they exceed the 90-day period (for announcing polls),” he warned, adding that the people were looking towards the judiciary for justice.