Friday Mar 24, 2023

After Punjab, polls in KP may also be delayed

A woman casts her vote at a polling station during by-elections in Karachi on October 16, 2022. — PPI
A woman casts her vote at a polling station during by-elections in Karachi on October 16, 2022. — PPI

  • Experts believe KP polls will not be conducted before Oct 8. 
  • ECP official says Oct 8 could be construed as day of NA, provincial assemblies polls. 
  • ECP acted according to law with the given situation: former secretary.

ISLAMABAD: The Election Commission of Pakistan's (ECP) announcement of the postponement of the upcoming elections in Punjab may indicate that the polls will also not be conducted in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa before October 8, The News reported on Friday.

In a surprise move on Wednesday, the electoral body changed the election date —  initially scheduled to be held on April 30 — to October 8. As per the experts, this decision implies that the KP polls will now be held along with other provincial legislatures as well as the National Assembly.

The Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) has already announced that it would challenge the ECP decision in the Supreme Court. 

“As mandated, the Election Commission and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Governor Haji Ghulam Ali held consultations twice, but instead of giving a date for polls, he dispatched a lengthy letter to explain the law and order, security and financial situation in the province,” a senior ECP official said when approached by The News.

The governor said that May 28 would be the date for the general election in his province. However, he formally did not give any date during his meeting at the ECP and afterwards, he sent a letter to the commission and called for dealing with various challenges first before going for elections.

While referring to the media reports and the governor’s letter, the official said that almost all the political parties might not be that much interested in the KP polls owing to the security situation, as the political stakeholders are in Punjab.

After Punjab Governor Muhammad Baligh Ur Rehman had declined to be part of the process, leading to fixing of polls date for Punjab, the president proposed two dates — April 30 and May 7 (Sundays) — for the conduct of the electoral exercise in the province. President Dr Arif Alvi had fixed April 30 for the purpose.

However, after a series of briefings from the Ministries Defence, Interior, senior military officials, intelligence agencies and the chief secretary of Punjab and inspector general of police, the commission issued an order to postpone the polls in the province, citing mainly security and law and order related reasons.

“We did what was our mandate in relation to Punjab as well as Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa, and beyond that, we can’t do anything.

“We did not cancel elections but took the date forward under Section 58 of the Elections Act, 2017 and informed the president accordingly,” the senior official added.

Section 58 of the Act says, “Alteration in Election Programme: Notwithstanding anything contained in Section 57, the Commission may, at any time after the issue of the notification under sub-section (1) of that section, make such alterations in the Election Programme (EP) announced in that notification for different stages of the election or may issue a fresh EP as may, in its opinion to be recorded in writing, be necessary for the purposes of this Act: Provided that the Commission shall inform the President about any alteration in the EP made under this subsection”.

Another senior official at the commission, when asked about fixing October 8 as the date for elections in Punjab on its own, he contended that this date could also be construed as the day of the general election to the National Assembly and the four provincial assemblies.

He explained that the incumbent National Assembly came into existence on August 13, 2018, and hence its last day is August 12; within 60 days the Election Commission has to conduct elections, though October 11 is the last day of the stipulated time, October 8 has been fixed, as Sunday falls on this day.

Under Section 57 of the Act, the president shall announce the date or dates of the general election after consultation with the commission.

Former secretary of the Election Commission, Kanwar Dilshad, told The News that the electoral body’s order was based on hard facts, as explained by the stakeholders, who gave presentations to the commission in recent days. He claimed that the commission had acted on the Constitution and the law to proceed with the given situation.

He pointed out that when ex-premier Benazir Bhutto was assassinated, the Election Commission had, on its own, altered the election programme from January 8, 2008, to February 18, 2008. 

“I have my doubts about the general election to Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Assembly being held before October 8 and this is implied in the date given by the commission in its order for Punjab,” he added.

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