Wednesday, April 06, 2022
ISLAMABAD: After Prime Minister Imran Khan asked the nation to prepare for the next general election in three months, the understaffed Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) has started finding a way to make the polls possible at the given time, The News reported.
Two positions in the ECP fell vacant after a couple of members, Justice (retd) Altaf Ibrahim Qureshi (Punjab) and former justice Irshad Qaiser (Khyber Pakhtunkhwa), retired on July 26, 2022. No appointments could have been made on these as yet hitherto owing to the deadlock between the past government and the opposition.
Sources within ECP said that Chief Election Commissioner Sikandar Sultan Raja, along with the two other ECP members, has become active to take up the mammoth challenge of holding the elections and make arrangements required to be made before the final event.
“Legislation and EVMs and voting mechanism for overseas Pakistanis besides conducting delimitation of constituencies is a huge challenge for us and we have started consultations while some issues are already being looked into,” the sources quoted him as saying.
The commission is learnt to be caught in a Catch-22 situation, despite having started related consultations in view of the dissolution of the National Assembly and other actions pending with the Supreme Court of Pakistan.
The National Census Coordination Centre was inaugurated by Federal Minister for Planning Asad Umar in February. He said on the occasion that the first-ever digitized census would be concluded throughout Pakistan in a 30-day period in August 2022.
Section 17 (2) of the Elections Act 2017 mandates the commission to carry out delimitation of constituencies after every census is officially notified: The current delimitation was carried out on the basis of provisional results of the 2017 census under a one-time waiver of the legal provision. However, notwithstanding the publication of final results of the national census in May last year, the commission could not conduct delimitation and the reason given for this is the former PTI government decision of carrying out a fresh census. “Indeed, there are so many ifs and buts before us but the commission will not disappoint the nation and go all-out to meet the challenge,” the ECP chief told the sources.
The sources said the law provides for one month to invite objections followed by the process of hearing. If the objections are heard simultaneously, this could he handy in view of limited time.
Moreover, the ECP has issued a brief statement to clarify that it has not issued any statement regarding the elections.
On his part, PTI Vice Chairman Shah Mehmood Qureshi said the ECP is a constitutional institution, mandated to hold free and fair elections. He emphasised that the prime minister has the constitutional authority to move towards elections by advising dissolution of the assembly anytime.
He asserted: “If this is so, why is the ECP not ready? What are they withdrawing salaries for? Why do they continue to hold offices if they cannot meet their constitutional responsibility?”
Meanwhile, former Minister of State for Information Farrukh Habib tweeted to insist that under Article 224 of the Constitution, the ECP is bound to hold elections within 90 days.