The PPP on Tuesday again called for holding polls within the constitutionally mandated 90-day period following the dissolution of the National Assembly (NA) on August 9, demanding the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) announce the schedule for the polls.
The party reiterated its demand following a meeting with the electoral watchdog at its secretariat in Islamabad — where the ECP has been holding consultations with various parties on the electoral roadmap in recent days.
The consultations are being held against the backdrop of the ECP ruling out elections this year, while the 90-day limit for holding polls — mandated under Article 224 of the Constitution, ends on November 9.
The ECP reasons its decision to push elections beyond November 9 on the basis of the notification of results of the new digital 2023 census and Section 17(2) of the Elections Act, which states: “The commission shall delimit constituencies after every census is officially published.”
In line with this requirement, the ECP has said the process of fresh delimitation is expected to be completed by December 14 — over a month beyond the constitutionally mandated deadline for conducting general elections.
However, the PPP asserted after today’s meeting with the ECP that Article 224 of the Constitution mandated a timeframe for elections following an assembly’s dissolution and that it should be acted upon.
“The stance we adopted today is that the PPP wants the ECP to announce a new election date and the schedule for it. There is restlessness in the nation, and it is very important that a new election date and schedule is announced,” said PPP leader Nayyar Bukhari while speaking to the media.
He further said that the PPP would formulate its future strategy after a meeting of its central executive committee in Lahore where the ECP’s response to today’s meeting would be discussed.
Speaking alongside Bukhari, former commerce minister Naveed Qamar said the PPP had conveyed to the ECP its stance that the delimitation process would not be “extensive” as there was no change in the composition of provincial seats in the NA. Therefore, it could be completed before December, he added.
“The ECP assured us that they will deliberate on the matter and may announce a new delimitation schedule. They also said that they will give the election date shortly after that,” he added.
Besides Bukhari and Qamar, Sherry Rehman, Faisal Karim Kundi, Syed Murad Ali Shah and Naveed Qamar were also a part of the PPP delegation that met ECP officials today.
The PPP is the only party from among those part of an erstwhile Pakistan Democratic Movement-led ruling coalition in the Centre that has called for giving precedence to the 90-day constitutional requirement over the requirement for delimitation.
Later, the ECP said also confirmed the PPP’s demands made during the meeting.
It said the PPP called for the commission to reduce the time for delimitation and announce and election schedule and date so that the polls were held “as soon as possible” for the economy to improve, political crisis to be mitigated and uncertainty to end.
The statement said Chief Election Commissioner (CEC) Sikandar Sultan Raja assured the delegation the ECP would complete the delimitation process as soon as possible and conduct the general election immediately after that.
Meanwhile, the Pakistan Bar Council (PBC) has also expressed concerns about the delay in general elections, “particularly in view of past practices and domination of the undemocratic forces”.
The PBC urged the electoral body in a statement issued today to ensure timely polls.
Earlier this month, President Dr Arif Alvi had also invited CEC Sikandar Sultan Raja for a meeting to “fix an appropriate date” for general elections, citing his constitutional duty under Article 244 to get the elections conducted in the 90 days’ prescribed period. However, the CEC said in his response that participating in such a confab would be of “scant importance” after changes to the election law.
A recent amendment to the Elections Act 2017 empowered the ECP to announce the dates for polls unilaterally without having to consult the president.
Additional reporting by Haseeb Bhatti and Irfan Sadozai.