The Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) said on Wednesday it has scheduled a meeting with political parties next month to discuss the code of conduct for general elections, which it expects to hold in January — months beyond the constitutionally mandated cutoff date of November 7.

The ECP announced the meeting in a statement that said the session was being held in accordance with Section 233 of the Elections Act 2017.

It is scheduled for October 4 at 2pm at the ECP Secretariat in Islamabad.

“In this regard, a copy of the draft Code of Conduct has also been sent to the leaders of political parties so that they can provide their feedback during the consultation. A copy of the draft Code of Conduct is also available on the Election Commission’s website www.ecp.gov.pk,” the ECP statement said.

The October 4 meeting follows separate meetings between the ECP and political parties on the electoral roadmap amid disagreements over the timeframe for elections.

The ECP has ruled out elections this year, citing the need for fresh delimitation of constituencies following the notification of the latest 2023 digital census.

Since the National Assembly was dissolved three days before the end of its constitutional term, Article 224 of the Constitution mandates that elections be held within 90 days of the dissolution of the assembly by November 7.

But at the same time, Section 17(2) of the Elections Act states that “the commission shall delimit constituencies after every census is officially published.”

During the last round of consultations with the ECP, political parties took different positions on the timing for elections with some highlighting the need for fresh delimitation and others — notably the PTI and PPP — calling for holding polls within the constitutional time frame.

Meanwhile, President Alvi invited Chief Election Commissioner (CEC) Sikandar Sultan Raja last month 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 within the prescribed 90-day period once the National Assembly is dissolved prematurely.

But a recent amendment to the Elections Act 2017 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 meeting 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 the president that the powers to announce the poll date rested with the ECP.

Earlier this month, the president wrote another letter to the CEC and, citing constitutional requirements, proposed that elections be held by November 6.

The letter came against the backdrop of reports that the president would unilaterally announce a date for the elections. But contrary to the said reports, analysts said that the missive was just a suggestion and not a declaration of the election date.

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