Elections to be held on 2023 census: PM Shehbaz

Published August 1, 2023
Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif speaks during an interview on Aaj News show ‘Sawal Yeh Hai’. — Photo courtesy Aaj News YouTube
Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif speaks during an interview on Aaj News show ‘Sawal Yeh Hai’. — Photo courtesy Aaj News YouTube
Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif speaks during an interview on Aaj News show ‘Sawal Yeh Hai’. — Photo courtesy Aaj News YouTube
Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif speaks during an interview on Aaj News show ‘Sawal Yeh Hai’. — Photo courtesy Aaj News YouTube

Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif has said upcoming elections would be held on the basis of the 2023 digital census and a meeting of the Council of Common Interest (CCI) — the body that approves census results — was expected.

The premier, whose government is expected to hand over the country’s reins to a caretaker setup this August, shared this during a recorded interview on Aaj News show ‘Faisla Aap Ka’, which was aired on Tuesday.

“We have to hold the elections on the basis of the new census … When a census has been conducted, the [polls] should be held on its basis unless there is an obstacle that cannot be overcome. But I don’t see [any such hurdle],” he said.

The PM also said the census results would be referred to the CCI as soon as they were finalised.

When asked about the possibility of any delays in elections, he was emphatic in saying that this should not be the case but also added that “the ball will be in the election commission’s court”.

PM Shehbaz’s statement is a deviation from that of his ministers’ previous assertions, who said that the upcoming election would be held on the basis of the 2017 census.

This decision, however, had prompted a terse response from the Muttahida Qaumi Movement-Pakistan (MQM-P), one of the ruling allies in the Centre that maintains Karachi’s population has been undercounted in the new census.

In an apparent bid to appease the party, PM Shehbaz held a meeting with its leaders in Karachi last week where he assured them that any decision on the matter would be made after consultation with all coalition partners.

Assemblies to dissolve before Aug 12

During the interview broadcast today, PM Shehbaz also said assemblies would be dissolved before August 12.

The five-year term of the National Assembly commenced under the then-PTI government on August 12, 2018, and will be completed under a PM-Shehbaz-led ruling coalition on the same date this year, following the ouster of former premier Imran Khan through a no-confidence vote in April last year.

According to Article 224 of the Constitution, “A general election to the National Assembly or a provincial assembly shall be held within a period of 60 days immediately following the day on which the term of the assembly is due to expire unless the Assembly has been sooner dissolved”.

In case of early dissolution, the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) is bound to hold the general elections within a period of 90 days after the dissolution, according to Article 224(2).

However, with just a few days left in the dissolution of the assembly, the prime minister and opposition leader are yet to begin consultations regarding the selection of the caretakers.

On this, PM Shehbaz said during the interview that the process would begin following the completion of consultation with the allies on the matter.

“I hope we agree on a name who is eligible to meet the requirements of the caretaker government and take forward Pakistan’s economic progress,” he said.

He was also assertive in saying the PML-N supremo and his brother Nawaz Sharif — who is in a self-imposed exile in London on medical grounds — would return to the country.

“His medical check-up will be done, and he will return when he gets a clean chit,” he said, adding that his return was not tied to the case lodged against him as he had been cleared in them.

The prime minister also said if his party would win the upcoming elections, Nawaz would assume the role of the country’s chief executive for the fourth time.

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