PPP’s elections dilemma


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ISLAMABAD: Despite having a resolute stance on timely general elections, the Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP)’s faces an intricate dilemma in the wake of the Council of Common Interests’ (CCI) decision approval of the digital census last week.

The approval means the election would be held on the basis of the new census and two federal ministers from the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) hinted at the polls’ delays because of fresh delimitation exercise.

Caught between its principled stand and the practical implications of the CCI’s ruling, the PPP is now awkwardly navigating uncharted political waters and compelled to align with the very decision it once opposed.

But still, the PPP lawmakers are hopeful that the elections will not be delayed and the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) will somehow complete the fresh delimitation process and hold the elections within the 90-day period.

“Elections can easily be held in the specified 90 days,” PPP Senator Taj Haider said. “Delimitation has been made much easier because of the amendment to the Section 20 of the Election Act,” he added.

Through the amendment, the PPP senator said, it had been provided that administrative boundaries could be crossed, if needed, to maintain equality of population in the constituencies.

When asked if the ECP could simultaneously go for delimitations and announce the election schedule to save time, Haider replied that “they can do it” but a certain period has to be given for appeals on delimitation and deciding them.

Haider said that ECP has all the softwares to carry out delimitation according to principles laid down in the Section 20 of the Act, adding: “problems arise when engineering is done to favour one candidate to the disadvantage of another.”

He, however, quipped that “softwares are bemurawat [unkind],” adding “if this is avoided there will be very few complaints.”

When asked specifically, if he saw any delay in polls because of the delimitation exercise, appeals and 54-day time needed for elections schedule, Haider replied in negative.

“I do not see any,” he said. “If we keep talking of delays everyone one gets more relaxed and therefore efforts has to be made to complete jobs ahead of the deadlines. Less talk more work,” he added.

PPP leader and Adviser to Prime Minister Qamar Zaman Kaira said that the PPP’s stance of timely elections was taken before the CCI’s unanimous decision, stressing that back then, there was no reason to delay the polls.

Recalling that almost all the political parties had severe reservations on the 2017 census results, Kaira said that it had already been decided that the 2023 elections would be held on the basis of new census.

Now that all the parties have unanimously approved census results and the CCI’s decision was “notified”, Kaira said: “It is up to the ECP if it can complete delimitation process within three months instead of four and hold the elections right after completing the mandatory 54-day time for election schedule.

Kaira explained that holding elections within 90 days and holding elections on the basis of fresh census were both constitutional requirements and by chance they both had come together.

“Now, it’s not a choice but a mandatory requirement to complete the delimitation process before holding elections,” he said. “The rest is up to the ECP, how it tackles the situation.”

His views on simultaneously conducting delimitation exercise and announcing elections schedule were different from Haider as he said that elections schedule could be announced once the delimitation process was completed.

At one point, the PPP leadership had even constituted a committee to convince the parties in the ruling alliance that the elections shouldn’t be delayed beyond the constitutional limit of 60 days, in case the assembly completed its tenure, or 90 days, if it was dissolved even a day before completing the five-year term.

PPP Senator Saleem Mandiviwala had earlier told Daily City News that the elections would be held on time as the government had made international commitments.

However, following the CCI decision, things have changed and now, the ruling PML-N ministers are openly saying that polls are unlikely to be held within 90 days after the dissolution of the National Assembly.

The government is all set to hand over powers to the caretaker setup as prime minister Shehbaz has announced that he would send the summary for the dissolution of the National Assembly to President Arif Alvi on August 9 (today).

Under Article 58 of the constitution, the National Assembly will be dissolved as soon as the president signs the advice. If the president does not sign, the assembly will stand dissolved 48 hours after the advice.

On the other hand, Foreign Minister and PPP Chairman Bilawal Bhutto Zardari, while addressing an event in Sukkur on Tuesday, announced that the party would start its elections campaign in the next two to three days.

Bilawal said that PPP had never been afraid of the election and had never backed down. “PPP workers are always ready for the elections,” he said. he added that he would be back among party workers after two to three days to start canvassing.

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