ISLAMABAD: The Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) Thursday held out the assurance that transparent polls would be conducted in the country ‘as soon as possible’ and level playing field would be provided to all political parties to take part in the democratic exercise.

The assurance came during the first consultative session held with political parties on the roadmap to elections with Chief Election Commissioner Sikandar Sultan Raja in the chair.

Separate consultative sessions were held with the representatives of PTI and JUI-F, also attended by members and senior ECP officials.

The PTI delegation stressed that elections should be held within 90 days as required by the Constitution and said there was no need for delimitation at this time. It called for immediate release of party leaders and workers, and added that the party should be allowed to hold rallies. It called for equal opportunities for PTI in politics like other parties.

PTI urges elections in 90 days, freedom for arrested members and rallies; JUI-F says delimitation process must be finished, cautions against repeat of ’18 events

The JUI-F delegation said there was no doubt that holding elections within 90 days was a constitutional requirement, but now that the census results had been notified, the ECP should first complete the delimitation process so that all parties, candidates and voters are facilitated in the polls.

They noted that electoral rolls should be updated in accordance with the new census blocks before the elections, the lists of polling stations should be corrected and the appointment of impartial and honest returning officers and district returning officers should be ensured.

The meeting was attended by PTI’s Babar Awan, Barrister Ali Zafar, Umair Niazi and Ali Mohammad Khan (via video link), whereas Maulana Abdul Ghafoor Haideri, Jalaluddin Advocate, Maulana Ataul Haque Darwesh, Senator Kamran Murtaza (via video link) and others represented the JUI-F.

Talking to journalists after the meeting, Barrister Ali Zafar said PTI would extend full support for free and fair elections in 90 days. He said delimitation could only take place after articles 51 and 106 of the Constitution have been amended to re-determine the number of National Assembly seats allocated to the provinces and the federal capital.

He said ECP does not have the power to decide the constituencies at present. During the CCI’s meeting, two chief ministers were caretakers and their decision in relation to approval of the census results is not acceptable.

“We told the ECP that the PTI chairman is in detention, how can equal opportunities be given in such an environment,” he wondered.

Babar Awan declared that PTI would not accept anything except polls in 90 days, adding they opposed delimitation of constituencies.

Maulana Haideri while speaking to media after the meeting said, “We have told the Election Commission that we want elections within the ambit of the Constitution. We want free and fair elections.” He said they urged the ECP to make such arrangements that the history of 2018 general elections is not repeated. “We should learn from the experiences. Such an election should be held in which the entire nation has faith,” he emphasised.

“The worst elections in the history of country were that of 2018 and this sinister act should not be repeated,” he said. The government that came as a result of the 2018 elections gave nothing but economic misery, unemployment and lawlessness, Maulana Haidari said.

Kalbe Ali also contributed to this report

Published in Dawn, August 25th, 2023

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