——- President, CEC agree on Feb 8 date for general election
——- AGP and CEC to inform SC about decision today
——- SC directed ECP to hold consultations with the President
By Anzal Amin
ISLAMABAD: President Arif Alvi and Chief Election Commissioner (CEC) Sikandar Sultan Raja Thursday agreed that the general elections will be staged in the country on February 8, 2024.
The development came after an ECP delegation headed by CEC Raja and Attorney General for Pakistan Mansoor Usman Awan met Alvi at the President’s Secretariat to discuss the poll date, a statement from Alvi’s office said.
“It was [then] unanimously decided that the election will be held on Thursday, February 8,” the statement added.
The meeting between the sides was on orders of the Supreme Court, which had instructed the election commission to consult with the president and inform the SC about the poll date tomorrow (Friday).
The ECP — in today’s Supreme Court hearing of petitions calling for timely polls across the country — had told the top court that polls would be held on February 11, but the SC asked the commission to consult with the president.
Following the consensus, AGP Awan and CEC Raja will inform the top court about the decision.
The court — in the order issued after the hearing — had instructed the AGP to arrange the meeting between ECP and Alvi, provide the president with the court order, and be available to render assistance.
“We expect that the matter of appointing a date for holding general elections shall be settled, and this court will be informed tomorrow (Friday),” the top court said in the order.
The Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP), Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N), and Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI), the three major political parties of the country, had welcomed the ECP announcement that elections in the country will take place on February 11, 2024.
Welcoming the ECP’s announcement, PPP’s Nayyer Bukhari has said that his party has been calling for holding timely elections.
“Unelected individual or cabinet do not have right to rule the country… the elections should have been held within 90 days as per the Constitution,” he said while speaking to Geo News.
PML-N senior leader Ayaz Sadiq welcomed the announcement saying that it’s a positive development and that the process to hold elections has commenced.
However, he said fixing date polls is the mandate of the ECP.
PML-N leader Irfan Siddiqui told Geo News that the ECP announcement is a positive development as it will ensure stability in the country.
“I welcome this development even more because the announcement came from Supreme Court which has increased its sanctity,” he remarked.
PTI lawyer Barrister Ali Zafar termed the SC proceedings as “histori” as ambiguity regarding the polls ended with it.
“Someone said the polls will be staged while someone said polls will not be staged. It was a worrisome situation,” the senator said while talking to media after the SC hearing
Zafar said that the SC made it clear that the elections were supposed to be staged within 90 days of the dissolution of assemblies.
He then called on the ECP to release an election schedule as per the Constitution after consultation with President Arif Alvi as directed by the court. The good news of elections has been received after a long time, he added.
The polls conundrum
The country has been gripped in political uncertainty ever since the Imran Khan government was removed through a no-confidence motion in April 2022.
The Shehbaz Sharif-led government dissolved the National Assembly on August 9, while Sindh and Balochistan assemblies were also prematurely dissolved to allow the electoral authority to hold elections in the country within 90 days.
Had the assemblies been dissolved on time, the electoral body was constitutionally bound to hold polls in 60 days.
However, the ECP decided against holding polls within the stipulated time as the Council of Common Interest (CCI), days before the dissolution of the assemblies, approved the 7th Population and Housing Census 2023.
The CCI approval made it mandatory for the commission to hold elections following fresh delimitations in light of the results of the census.
Subsequently, on August 17, the ECP announced the schedule of new delimitations to be carried out as per the new census results.
But in September, the commission announced that general elections in the country would take place in the last week of January 2024.
In the same month, the ECP also released the provisional report on the delimitation of constituencies. However, before the announcement, multiple petitions were filed in the Supreme Court against the delay in polls.
All the petitioners had asked the apex court to ensure that polls are held within 90 days.
These petitions were filed during the tenure of former chief justice Umar Ata Bandial, however, they were not fixed for a hearing.