Thursday Feb 23, 2023
Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif has decided to write a letter to President Dr Arif Alvi in connection with the latter's step to unilaterally announce the date for elections in Punjab and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KP).
The prime minister was referring to President Alvi's order which he gave to the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) on February 20 for holding elections on April 9 in KP and Punjab where the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) dissolved its governments last month. However, the president's order attracted a lot of criticism from the Pakistan Democratic Movement (PDM) parties.
PM Shehbaz, along with his cabinet members, said that the President's announcement of the election date was an unconstitutional move. The premier said he would write a letter to President Alvi on behalf of the cabinet condemning his [the President's] action.
Addressing a press briefing, Shehbaz Sharif said that the President of the country had also undertaken an unconstitutional act nine months ago — a clear reference to President Alvi's refusal to administer the oath to PM Shehbaz on the heels of a successful no-confidence motion that saw PTI Chairman Imran Khan ousted from the premiership last April. President Alvi went on sick leave just hours before he was scheduled to administer the oath to Shehbaz Sharif on April 11.
The Prime Minister also condemned the PTI rule, saying that the Gwadar port failed during the Imran era. However, the port has started functioning today with dredging being operational and wheat being shipped from there, he stressed.
President Alvi's move to unilaterally announce the election date triggered a debate among the political leaders as well as legal and constitutional experts regarding his jurisdiction. Many condemned him over the step while others from across the aisle supported him.
Those aligned with the PDM parties condemned President Alvi's decision. Defence Minister Khawaja Asif said the president is "exceeding his limits", adding that Alvi is doing so at the behest of Imran Khan.
Moreover, 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 PTI chief for trying to “become the president of the country", he said that the real president should be mindful of his role.
Federal Minister for Planning and Development and senior PML-N leader Ahsan Iqbal said that "it is the prerogative of the ECP" to announce a date for the elections. He was of the view that the president should not have announced the date.
Former Senate chairman Raza Rabbani said that the president was not empowered to take the decision.
Federal Information Minister Marriyum Aurangzeb slammed the PTI chief for making a spectacle in the country, saying: "That person has been summoned by every court in the country, yet he never shows up."
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.