• Fri. Mar 10th, 2023

President announces date for elections in Punjab, KP

President Dr Arif Alvi. — APP/File
President Dr Arif Alvi. — APP/File

A day after the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) excused itself from holding consultations with President Arif Alvi on polls in Punjab and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa  (KP) for the time being, the head of state on Monday announced to hold elections in the two provinces on April 9.

Under the Election Act 2027 Section 57(1), the president made the announcement.

According to a statement issued by the President’s Secretariat, President Alvi has asked the ECP to issue election programme in accordance with Section 57 (2) of the Act.

In his letter to Chief Election Commissioner (CEC) Sikander Sultan Raja, the president said that he was under oath to preserve, protect and defend the Constitution under Article 42 read with the third schedule of the Constitution.

He wrote that there being no restraining order from any of the judicial fora, there was no impediment in invoking the power and authority vested in him under Section 57 (1) of Elections Act, 2017, empowering him to “announce the date or dates of the general elections after consultation with the Commission”.

The president also added that he had felt it necessary to perform his constitutional and statutory duty to announce the date of elections to avoid the infringement and breach of the Constitution and law i.e., holding of elections not later than 90 days.

The president further said that the governors of Punjab and KP were not performing their constitutional duties for appointing a date, not later than 90 days from the date of dissolution of provincial assemblies as per the Constitution. 

He added that the ECP was also not fulfilling its constitutional obligation for holding polls for the assemblies of Punjab and KP.

“Both the constitutional offices are placing the ball in each other’s court, similar to the old Urdu proverb پہلے آپ، نہیں، پہلے آپ, thus, resulting in delay and creating a serious danger that constitutional provisions may be violated.”

He pointed out that the election watchdog had already indicated the possible dates of elections in its various communications to the constitutional functionaries showing its own responsibility of holding the elections within ninety days.

The president further said that he had initiated a serious consultation process with the ECP under Section 57 (1) of the Elections Act, 2017 to announce the date for the general elections of the aforementioned assemblies, however, the ECP replied that the commission could not participate in a meeting on the subject matter with the Office of the president.

‘Important’ ECP huddle tomorrow

In order to review the announcement made by the president, the ECP will convene an important meeting tomorrow (Tuesday), well-placed sources told Geo News.

ECP spokesperson Quratul Ain said that the electoral watchdog, after receiving a letter from the president, would decide the matter as per the law.

PML-N, PPP leaders reject president’s move

Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) senior leader Talal Chaudhary, while speaking to Geo News said: “Election cannot — and will not — be held on the President’s directives.”

Slamming the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) Chairman Imran Khan for trying to “become the president of the country”, he said that the real president should be mindful of his role.

Chaudhary further said that as per the constitution, the president was not empowered to set the date of the election.

“He should refrain from making a joke of the office of the president, and the country.” He said.

The former minister of state for interior also said that Pakistan needed elections that will fulfil the needs of the country and not those that will fulfil Imran Khan’s wishes.

“There is a proper procedure for holding elections in the Constitution,” he said, adding that President Alvi was using his position “to make the elections controversial”.

On being asked whether the PML-N intended to take the matter to court, the PML-N leader said that it was pointless to do so given that the decision held no value to begin with.

He further clarified that the issue was not that the PML-N was scared of elections, saying “we were not even scared of a martial law,” but that the elections could not be held according to Khan’s whims.

“We have already started preparing for the election,” he said, “Maryam Nawaz is going to every district, holding meetings and conventions. We are prepared for them.”

On being asked whether it was possible that the elections would be held as decreed by the president, Chaudhry vehemently denied the possibility and said that the ECP would fulfil its responsibilities.

He further said that since the president seemed to be playing the role of Khan lackey, he had already taken the first step to making the elections controversial.

Pakistan Peoples Party senior leader and former Senate chairman Raza Rabbani said that the president was not empowered to take the decision.

According to legal experts, the date should be given by the governor, and actual arrangements should be done by ECP. However, the governor can only set the date when he signs the dissolution paper. In KP, the governor signed the paper, but not in Punjab. Therefore the matter remains disputed.

More to come…

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