ISLAMABAD: As eyes remain fixated on the ongoing consultations of the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) over the electoral roadmap, the Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) on Tuesday intensified its demand for conducting elections within the constitutionally mandated 90-day period following the dissolution of the National Assembly on August 9.
The party renewed its call for timely elections during a meeting with the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) at its secretariat in Islamabad. The demand from the PPP came as the ECP has ruled out elections this year, despite the 90-day limit for holding polls ending on November 9.
The electoral watchdog justifies its decision to delay elections by citing the notification of results of the new digital 2023 census and Section 17(2) of the Elections Act, which states that delimitation of constituencies should be done after every officially published census.
However, PPP after Tuesday’s meeting contended that Article 224 of the Constitution mandates a timeframe for elections following the dissolution of an assembly and that this should be adhered to.
During media interactions outside ECP, PPP leader Nayyar Bukhari expressed the party’s stance, stating, “The PPP wants the ECP to announce a new election date and the schedule for it. There is restlessness in the nation, and it is very important that a new election date and schedule is announced.
“The PPP will now discuss the ECP’s response in a meeting of its central executive committee in Lahore, where the party will formulate its future strategy.”We had a meeting with the ECP in a pleasant environment during which we put all our reservations,” said PPP Vice President Sherry Rehman. She said that it is the electoral body’s responsibility to conduct the elections.
The constitution stipulates that the polls be held within 90 days after the dissolution of the National Assembly, she underscored.
Former commerce minister Naveed Qamar also confirmed that the PPP conveyed to the ECP that the delimitation process would not be extensive, as there were no changes in the composition of provincial seats in the NA.
He said that the ECP assured the PPP that they will deliberate on the matter and may announce a new delimitation schedule. “They also said that they will give the election date shortly after that.
“The PPP delegation at the meeting included Nayyar Bukhari, Naveed Qamar, Sherry Rehman, Faisal Karim Kundi, Syed Murad Ali Shah, and Naveed Qamar.
The ECP has invited Balochistan Awami Party (BAP) to hold discussions on Wednesday (today) at 2pm while an Awami National Party (ANP) delegation — comprising Mian Iftikhar Hussain, Zahid Khan, Wakil Khushdil and Wakil Rahim — will hold a meeting at 11am.
“There will be consultations with BAP on general elections,” said ECP.
ECP to wrap up delimitation ‘as soon as possible’
Confirming the demands put forth by the PPP during the meeting, the ECP that party called for the commission to reduce the time for delimitation and announce an election schedule and date so that the polls were held “as soon as possible” for the economy to improve, political crisis to be mitigated and uncertainty to end.
The Chief Election Commissioner (CEC) Sikandar Sultan Raja assured the delegation the ECP would complete the delimitation process as soon as possible and conduct the general election immediately after that.
Posting, transfers of key officers for impartial elections
Meanwhile, in preparation for the upcoming general elections, CEC Sikandar Sultan Raja chaired two significant meetings with the chief secretaries and inspector generals of Sindh and Balochistan at the ECP secretariat in Islamabad.
The meetings were attended by members of the election commission, the secretary of the Election Commission of Pakistan, provincial election commissioners of Sindh and Balochistan, and other senior officers of the electoral watchdog.
During the meetings, the chief secretary and IG of Sindh provided a briefing on the progress of election preparations and assured the ECP of their full cooperation.
Emphasising the importance of conducting transparent and impartial elections, the electoral watchdog stressed that it is the fundamental responsibility of the ECP. Accordingly, the first step towards achieving this goal would be the transfer and posting of officers and officials vital for impartial elections.
To this end, the ECP issued directives for the necessary transfers and postings, highlighting that this is the first step towards transparency.
Following this, the appointments of District Returning Officers, Returning Officers, Assistant Returning Officers, and monitoring teams will be made.
The ECP stressed the urgent need for the prompt submission of proposals for transfers and postings, as time for the elections is limited. It assured the chief secretary and IG of Sindh of its full support and cooperation.
In the second meeting, the chief secretary, IG of Balochistan, and provincial election commissioner of Balochistan briefed the commission on their preparations for the upcoming elections. The chief secretary informed the commission that recommendations for postings and transfers of various officers, deputy commissioners, and additional deputy commissioners have been sent.
These recommendations prioritise officers’ performance and merit, and other postings and transfers will be conducted in accordance with the ECP’s directives.
Furthermore, the chief secretary of Balochistan highlighted that the maintenance of flood-affected polling station buildings has been ensured. Meanwhile, the IG of Balochistan provided a briefing on the security situation in the province.
The ECP directed the chief secretary and IG of Balochistan to fulfil their duties impartially and assured them of the commission’s full assistance.CEC Sikandar Sultan Raja reaffirmed the commitment of the ECP to conduct peaceful and impartial elections in accordance with the constitution and the law, highlighting that the commission is an impartial and constitutional body.