PPP leader Sherry Rehman has urged the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) to announce the polls date and clear the air of uncertainty in the country, which she said is now bothering even foreign diplomats.
“Presently, all of them (diplomats) want an answer to when the uncertainty will end as no one wants uncertainty in Pakistan,” she said on Dawn News programme ‘Doosra Rukh’, which will air at 7pm tonight.
The former climate change minister also addressed the matter of foreign ambassadors meeting “institutions” — an apparent reference to US envoy Donald Blome’s meeting with Chief Election Commissioner Sikandar Sultan Raja last month.
“Yes, it is unusual to meet institutions, but what do you expect when no date is being announced [for polls]?” she said, adding that several matters would settle down with the mere announcement of elections date.
The PPP leader further said that her party’s stance on the elections’ timeframe was clear — that elections should be held within the constitutionally mandated period of 90 days following the premature dissolution of the National Assembly on August 9.
While the PPP is the only party from the Pakistan Democratic Movement-led erstwhile ruling coalition that has been assertive in calling for not pushing the elections beyond the constitutionally mandated cutoff date of November 9, recent statements by its top leadership show signs of flexibility in this stance.
Earlier this week, PPP Chairperson Bilawal Bhutto-Zardari said during a meeting with other party leaders that “the general elections should be held according to the Constitution so that the democratic government can solve the problems of the people.”
This was the first instance in recent weeks where the party called for adhering to the Constitution, without explicitly referring to the 90-day deadline.
Similarly, PPP Co-Chairperson and Bilawal’s father Asif Ali Zardari emphasised earlier today that the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) was obligated to conduct a fresh delimitation of constituencies following the notification of new 2023 digital census results — the primary reason cited by the ECP for delaying elections beyond November.
The ECP bases its decision on Section 17(2) of the Elections Act, which states: “The commission shall delimit constituencies after every census is officially published.”
Meanwhile, top lawyers’ bodies have made calls for strikes, demanding elections by November 9, as mandated under Article 224 of the Constitution.
Last month, President Alvi also invited CEC Raja for a meeting to “fix an appropriate date” for general elections.
In his letter to the CEC, the president quoted Article 244 of the Constitution, saying he was duty-bound to get the elections conducted in the 90 days’ prescribed period as the NA was dissolved prematurely on August 9.
But a recent amendment to the Elections Act 2017 has empowered the ECP to announce the dates for polls unilaterally without having to consult the president.
Citing this change to the law, the CEC responded to the president, saying that participating in a confab with him to decide the election date would be of “scant importance”.
Subsequently, the president sought the law ministry’s advice on the matter, and the ministry communicated to him that the powers to announce the poll date rested with the ECP.
On Monday, the president held a discussion on matters pertaining to elections with caretaker Law Minister Ahmed Irfan Aslam and stressed the need to make decisions “in accordance with the spirit of the Constitution”.