Can ECP move pave the way to stability?

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LAHORE: The eagerly-awaited announcement by the polls oversight authority has apparently cleared the political fog surrounding the election timing and rekindled hopes of political and economic stability.

However, despite clearing some air, the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) has not announced the exact date of the elections, leaving room for speculation.

That is why, while the interim government and some political parties have welcomed the ECP’s announcement, the PTI, the former ruling party, has raised objections to the move

The PTI has questioned why the ECP has fixed the polling month instead of a polling day and why polls are taking place beyond the 90-day constitutional limit, especially, when a case seeking holding elections within 90 days of dissolution of assemblies is already pending before the Supreme Court.

In a statement, a PTI spokesperson said the nation would not accept any date out of the constitutionally defined timeframe of 90 days. Whatever date in January is set for polls, it would be outside the constitutionally defined deadline of the 90-day limit; hence it would be unconstitutional.

The sole responsibility of the ECP is to conduct free, fair and impartial elections in the constitutionally-defined timeframe and the on-time poll is the only way to steer the country out of the untold crises, the spokesperson added.

The National Assembly was dissolved on August 9, a few days before the completion of its five-year term. As per the Constitution, elections must be held within 90 days if a legislature is dissolved before completion of its term and therefore, the elections should be held in the second week of November.

Holding general elections in the last week of January means a violation of the constitutional timeframe.

However, general elections have also not been held within this 90-day timeframe in the province of Punjab and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (K-P) whose legislatures were dissolved in January.

On January 14, the PTI, which ruled the two provinces, dissolved both provincial assemblies, hoping that this way it could pressure the PML-N lead federal government into announcing snap polls in the country.

That didn’t happen. The move only intensified the already tense political climate.

Caretaker Minister for Information Murtaza Solangi welcomed the ECP’s announcement regarding elections, saying it was a day of disappointment for those who spread rumours.

He said the ECP will complete all the work by November 30 and elections will be held in the last week of January. “We are happy that elections will be held in the country under the Constitution. The holding of elections will increase economic development and political stability in the country.”

In a statement, PPP’s Secretary General Syed Nayyar Hussain Bukhari asked the provincial and divisional presidents of the party to carefully review the lists of preliminary constituencies to be issued by the ECP on September 27. Bukhari directed the officials to raise objections to and suggestions on constituencies once the preliminary lists are published.

Meanwhile, JUI-F’s Maulana Abdul Ghafoor Haideri welcomed the ECP’s announcement, stating that the JUI-F has always demanded timely and transparent elections and that free, fair and transparent elections can lead to political and economic stability in the country.

Haideri, however, made it clear to ECP that it will face strong resistance if history of 2018 elections is repeated. “We want impartial elections in the country,” he said.

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