Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Governor Haji Ghulam Ali on Saturday lamented President Arif Alvi’s announcement on holding elections in Punjab on April 30, saying he wished a “unanimous” decision was reached regarding the elections in both KP and Punjab.
Speaking to Aaj News earlier today, he said: “It would have been good if all three of us (President Alvi, Chief Election Commissioner Sikander Sultan Raja and myself) would have sat together and made a decision after hearing each other’s opinions and the steps taken by the election commission.
“But maybe, he considered it appropriate to give a date by himself,” he added.
A day ago, hours after the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) wrote a letter to President Alvi suggesting possible poll dates — between April 30 and May 7 — for Punjab, he announced that elections in Punjab will be held on April 30.
The ECP’s press release had further said it had written a letter to the KP governor, stating that the electoral body was waiting for his response regarding the date for polls in the province.
The announcement came days after the Supreme Court ruled that the elections to the Punjab and KP assemblies should be held within the stipulated period of 90 days. It, however, allowed the ECP to propose a poll date that deviates from the 90-day deadline by the “barest minimum”, in case of any practical difficulty.
In his interview today, Governor Ali said, “If we make decisions in this manner, it will create difficulties and as far as his giving a date is concerned, I think there is a stark difference between the situation of Punjab and KP.”
Separately, he told Dawn.com that as the letter from ECP had arrived yesterday night and was addressed to his secretary — who was on holiday — it would be opened when the secretary returns to the office on Monday.
Regarding the announcement of the date for the KP election, he said, “In the context of the Supreme Court’s verdict, whatever date is available, will hold elections.
“Making the arrangements is the ECP’s job [while] I will give the proposed date,” the governor added.
While he voiced his intent to announce the date, he bemoaned the lack of consensus among the concerned stakeholders: “It was my wish that the president, chief election commissioner and I give a unanimous date.
Governor Ali also said a “positive message” would have been sent if the president had called for a unanimous date for both provinces before announcing the date for the Punjab elections.
“I even contacted President Arif Alvi yesterday for a unanimous date. [However], he announced the election date for Punjab by himself,” he lamented.
Punjab, KP election limbo
In a mammoth public gathering in November last year, former prime minister Imran Khan had announced that his party would disassociate itself from the “current corrupt political system” by quitting the two provincial assemblies where PTI was in power.
Despite several obstacles put up by the coalition government, the Punjab and KP assemblies were dissolved on Jan 14 and Jan 18, respectively. Under the law, the elections are to be held within 90 days after the dissolution of assemblies.
That means April 14 and April 17 were the deadlines for holding general elections to Punjab and KP assemblies, but the two governors instead of setting dates for elections after receiving the proposal from the ECP had advised the commission to consult stakeholders.
Chief secretaries and inspectors-general of the two provinces during meetings with the ECP had said they were short of police force and talked of terrorism threats, making out a case for putting off elections.
The finance division had also expressed its inability to provide funds and the interior ministry told the ECP that the army and civil armed forces will not be available.
On Feb 17, President Alvi had invited CEC Raja for an urgent meeting regarding consultations on election dates but the ECP told him he had no role in the announcement of dates for general elections to provincial assemblies and the commission was aware of its constitutional obligation in this regard.
Subsequently, the president unilaterally announced April 9 as the date for holding general elections for the Punjab and KP assemblies.
The move drew sharp criticism from his political opponents, who accused him of acting like a PTI worker while the ECP said it would announce the poll schedule only after the “competent authority” fixes the date.