ECP issues schedule for Feb 8 general elections

Published December 15, 2023
ECP launches election management system on Dec 15, 2023. — Screengrab
ECP launches election management system on Dec 15, 2023. — Screengrab

Acting in compliance with the Supreme Court order issued earlier, the Election Commission of Pakistan on Friday issued the election schedule for the upcoming February 8 polls.

Chief Election Commissioner (CEC) Sikandar Sultan Raja had earlier confirmed that the election schedule would be announced tonight.

The apex court had hours earlier ordered the electoral watchdog to announce the election schedule by tonight after it suspended a Lahore High Court order that had stayed the appointment of returning officers and district returning officers from the bureaucracy.

In a notification, available with Dawn.com, the ECP said the public notice would be issued by the RO on December 19 with the dates for filing nominations with the RO from Dec 20-22.

The ECP said the names of the nominated candidates would be published on Dec 23 and the last date for scrutiny of their nomination papers would be from Dec 24-30.

The last date for filing appeals against the RO’s decisions on rejecting or accepting nomination papers is January 3 with the last date for deciding the appeals by an appellate tribunal on Jan 10.

The revised list of candidates will be published on Jan 11 and the last date for withdrawing one’s candidature is Jan 12.

The ECP said election symbols will be allotted to political parties on Jan 13 with polls set for Feb 8.

The electoral watchdog added that the election programme shall also apply to the seats reserved for women and non-Muslims in the National and provincial assemblies.

“Last date of filling of separate priority list for seats reserved for women and non-Muslims before the ROs is Dec 22,” the notification read.

In another post on X, the ECP said the election management system was also formally launched according to Section 13 of the Election Act 2017.

The electoral watchdog also stated that the training of ROs will be resumed and conducted on Dec 17-18 whereas DROs will be trained on Dec 19.

On Dec 1, a senior ECP official had told Dawn the much-awaited election schedule would be announced 56 days before the date set for polling.

“You can calculate the date yourself. It would be somewhere around Dec 14,” the official had said.

According to the official, all arrangements had been made for free and fair elections after completing tasks like hearing representations against delimitation and publishing the final list of constituency delimitation in time.

The law gives six days for filing of nomination papers after the announcement of the schedule, and the list of nominated candidates is to be published the following day.

It gives eight days for scrutiny of nomination papers, four days for filing appeals against acceptance or rejection of nomination papers, and seven days for deciding the appeals. The revised list of candidates will be published the day after the decisions on appeals.

The next day is for the withdrawal of candidature and the following day, electoral symbols will be allotted to the contesting nominees and a final list is published.

The poll date has to be set not earlier than 28 days following the publication of the final list of candidates.

“The date or dates on which a poll shall, if necessary, be taken, which or the first of which shall be a date not earlier than the twenty-eighth day after the publication of the revised list of candidates,” the elections act reads.

ECP ‘fully prepared’ for polls: CEC

During an informal meeting with journalists today in Islamabad, the CEC termed the top court’s decision as in the wider national interest. “I never said the election may be delayed,” he said, adding that the ECP was fully prepared for polls.

Raja said it was practical for the election schedule to be released after the training of ROs was completed. He urged anyone who had an issue with the appointed ROs to refer to the ECP.

“Training of DROS, ROs and stationary officers will begin from Monday,” Raja said. “The election schedule was prepared, now some changes are being made to it.”

Raja apprised the journalists of his meeting with three Supreme Court judges earlier today, describing his meeting with the chief justice as “pleasant”.

“I am grateful [to him] for getting us out of trouble.”

He made it clear that the names of each RO were checked before finalisation, highlighting that it was the ECP’s duty to ensure a level playing field for all the political parties.

“In the city where one party gets permission to hold a meeting, everyone will get it,” he said.

Shedding light on the constant terrorist attacks on a near daily basis in the country, he said: “The security situation in Balochistan and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa is alarming, but I am hopeful.”

At one point during the talk, Raja said cases against PTI would be decided on merit. Meanwhile, he told the journalists that PML-N had reservations about the constituencies in Lahore.

Raja also emphasised that intra-party elections should be transparent, adding that the electoral watchdog wanted to monitor them.

The chief election commissioner said incarcerated former prime minister Imran Khan was his “favourite sports player”, adding that he also has a picture of the former cricket captain in his house.

“Not only the politicians but the whole world is angry with me,” he said. “PTI people abuse me outside and come to the commission and apologise.”

Citing that the PTI had nominated him as the CEC, Raja said he was not at all against the political party. “I strongly wish that the political leadership meets. They can solve the country’s problem by sitting together.”

Ishaq Dar posts ‘election schedule’ then deletes it

Separately, PML-N Senator Ishaq Dar shared a supposed election schedule on social media platform X and subsequently deleted it.

However, CEC Raja confirmed that the ECP has not released the election schedule so far and termed Dar’s post a lie.

“The rumours on social media are not true,” he asserted, reiterating that the schedule would issued later shortly.

Later speaking on Geo News show Aaj Shahzeb Khanzada Kay Saath, Dar clarified that a former senator had forwarded him a message about the election schedule earlier.

“I copied and pasted it in a tweet in a bid to facilitate the people,” he said, adding that he won’t disclose the name of the senator.

“Later I found out through Geo News that the ECP said they had not announced the election schedule so far,” Dar added.

He said it was unfortunate that people create fake messages and spread them even on such pivotal matters.

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