President ‘mulls Nov date’ for elections

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ISLAMABAD: President Arif Alvi would likely defy the opinions of the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) and the law ministry as he was contemplating announcing the date for the next general elections, sources familiar with the development told Daily City News on Thursday.

According to the sources, the president might make the announcement soon as he had completed consultations with his legal aides. The sources expected that the president would write another letter to the ECP, suggesting a date in November for the elections.

The sources said that President Alvi had been advised by his legal team that an act of parliament could not override the provisions of the Constitution and that parliament might have amended the Election Act 2017 but the Constitution was clear that polls would have to take place within 90 days.

“Based on that opinion, the president will communicate the election date to the Election Commission soon,” a source revealed.

When approached, the President House couldn’t confirm the development.

On August 23, the president invited the Chief Election Commissioner (CEC) for consultations on setting the date for the general elections. However, the ECP wrote back to the president, insisting that after the recent amendments in the Election Act 2017, the president had no role in fixing the election date and hence the CEC turned down the invitation.

As per the amendments to the Election Act 2017, the ECP didn’t need to consult the president if the assembly was dissolved on the advice of the prime minister. The President House also sought the opinion of the law ministry, which reportedly endorsed the view of the ECP. However, the president was not convinced and now he had decided to announce a November date for the election.

As per the Constitution, elections were supposed to take place within 90 days following the dissolution of assemblies. However, the Pakistan Democratic Movement (PDM)-led government, during its last days in office, notified the new census results. The ECP said it was bound by the law to redraw constituencies based on the new census results.

The entire exercise will take four months and the election schedule will be announced after that. This means elections seem impossible this year. But if the president goes ahead with his own date for elections it may further complicate the matter.

The Supreme Court too is set to take up the issue next week as the chief justice indicated that the top court won’t accept any steps that may be in violation of the Constitution. The fate of elections is hanging in balance as observers believe that polls may take place in February.

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