Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Governor Haji Ghulam Ali on Tuesday suggested May 28 as the election date in the province to the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP).
Speaking to reporters after a meeting with Chief Election Commissioner Sikandar Sultan Raja, the KP governor said “my work is to give the date for the elections in the province but conducting the polls falls under the electoral watchdog’s domain.”
The KP governor said the meeting with the election commission officials was held in a “good atmosphere”.
He cited the law and order situation as “a real problem”, and mentioned how the police came under attack in KP’s Lakki Marwat district.
“The election commission and government are bound to follow the orders of the Supreme Court,” he said, adding that “the people in KP have doubts regarding the census carried out in the province”.
However, in the same media talk, Governor Ghulam said he “does not see elections happening”.
Earlier in the day, the KP governor also met President Dr Arif Alvi, who advised him to “forthwith” announce the date for general elections to the KP Assembly to “avoid any complication”.
According to a press release issued by the President’s Secretariat, the KP governor called on Alvi at the Aiwan-i-Sadr today and discussed matters related to the holding of general elections.
“The president advised Ali to implement the apex court’s order in letter and spirit wherein it had been directed that the KP governor, after consultation with the Election Commission of Pakistan, forthwith appoint a date for the holding of the general election to the provincial assembly to avoid any complication as almost a period of two weeks had already passed,” it said.
“The president emphasised the need for upholding the Constitution and holding general elections within the given time period, which had been mandated by the Constitution, further affirmed by the Supreme Court of Pakistan, and was essential for strengthening parliamentary democracy in the country,” the press release added.
It is pertinent to mention that while the date for elections in Punjab (April 30) has been announced, the fate of KP continues to hang in balance.
Earlier, Dawn reported that the ECP will hold a meeting with the KP governor today for a consultation about the date of elections to the provincial assembly.
However, an official told Dawn that the KP governor, who had expressed his desire to come to the ECP last week, was formally invited on March 14 but he had not confirmed his arrival yet.
On March 1, the Supreme Court had ruled that the elections to the Punjab and KP assemblies should be held within the stipulated period of 90 days. It had, 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.
It had also held that President Alvi and the KP governor will fix dates for Punjab and KP assemblies, respectively, in consultation with the ECP.
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.