‘Law tweaks’ empower ECP to announce vote date

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ISLAMABAD: The caretaker law ministry in its legal opinion to President Dr Arif Alvi — on a letter penned by the chief election commissioner (CEC) to it — informed him that the assemblies were dissolved on the recommendation of the prime minister and the legislation approved by parliament did not authorise him to give the date of the polls.

According to sources, the law ministry told the president that only the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) had the authority to set the date of the polls after changes in the electoral law.

It added that under the new amendment to the Election Act, the president no longer had the authority to give the date of the polls.

The ministry continued that the president could only give the date of the elections if he had dissolved the assemblies under Article 58 of the Constitution.

However, as the assemblies were dissolved on the recommendation of the premier, the ECP has the authority to give the date.

The president recently wrote a letter to CEC Sikandar Sultan Raja, inviting him to a meeting to fix a date for the upcoming elections in the country.

Alvi added in the letter that under Article 48 (5) of the Constitution, he was obligated to fix a date for polls within 90 days of the date of the dissolution of the National Assembly,

In response, the CEC told the president that he was not authorised to fix the date for the upcoming polls following amendments to the country’s electoral laws.

In June this year, then Prime Minster Shehbaz Sharif’s government approved amendments to the Election Act 2017, granting the ECP the power to announce the date for the polls unilaterally.

Before the amendment to Section 57(1) of the Elections Act, the president was required to consult the commission for fixing a date for the polls.

However, after the amendment, the commission has been granted the power to announce the date on its own.

Raja wrote to Alvi that had the president dissolved the NA in his discretion as provided in Article 58(2) read with Article 48(5) of the Constitution, then he could set the date for the general elections. However, he pointed out that as the assembly was dissolved on the advice of the prime minister like in the present case or by afflux of time as provided in Article 58(1) of the Constitution, then the power to announce the date for the polls was the sole prerogative of the ECP.

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