ISLAMABAD: The Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) Wednesday night announced that the polls in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa would be held on October 30 — the same date as Punjab's polls.
In a notification, the polling authority said: "...the Election Commission of Pakistan notifies 8 October, 2023 as poll date for the General Elections to the Provincial Assembly of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa. The Election Programme for election under Section 57(2) of the Elections Act, 2017 will be issued in due course of time.
KP Governor had earlier proposed May 28 as the date for the polls, but later, citing security concerns, he asked the election commission to stage the polls on October 8.
The development will not sit well with the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) as it has already opposed the delay of Punjab polls, while the federal government welcomed the postponement.
President Arif Alvi had given the date of April 30 after orders from the Supreme Court. However, on March 22, the ECP postponed the upcoming elections citing security reasons as the major cause behind the change of plan.
Amid the setback, PTI — which had dissolved both assemblies in January for holding early elections — moved the Supreme Court and the case is being heard by a five-member bench, including Chief Justice of Pakistan Umar Ata Bandial.
The ECP's decision to withdraw the earlier announcement for Punjab elections came after security and financial bodies refused to back the commission during the upcoming polls.
The PTI claims that the government is running away from elections as it fears defeat, but the ruling Pakistan Democratic Movement (PDM) has denied the claim, saying it is always ready to contest polls.
PTI Chairman Imran Khan repeatedly alleged that key government figures were involved in the attempted assassination bid on his life and claimed that they were resorting to the measures to clear the way for elections.
"What is happening is that the government is petrified of elections. They're scared that we're going to win the elections. Therefore, they are trying everything to get me out of the way," he said in an interview.
However, regarding the delay in the polls, Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif justified the electoral body’s move by saying that the decision has been taken keeping in view the resurgence of terrorism in the country.
“No political party can run away from the elections, as polls are the beauty of a democracy,” he told a joint sitting of the parliament earlier this week.
In November last year, the PTI chairman had announced the dissolution of KP and Punjab assemblies, and after much back-and-forth, the legislatures were dissolved in January — Punjab on Jan 14 and KP on Jan 18.
Then came the step of announcing election dates and governors from both provinces were reluctant to issue dates until the Supreme Court's order on March 1 — directing President Arif Alvi to announce a date for Punjab polls and Ali for KP.
Following the announcements of dates, the ECP held consultations with provincial and federal authorities, and it did not receive a welcoming response, as the authorities declined to back the electoral watchdog.
Citing its responsibility towards ensuring fair elections in the country, the election organising authority, in a notification, recounted its various endeavours in trying to ensure that the commission carried out its responsibilities diligently.