ISLAMABAD (Eshfak Mughal) The Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) on Thursday made big announcement that the general elections will be held end of January 2024.
The ECP said a preliminary list of delimitation will be published on Sept 2023. The list is being carried out in line with the new census, will be published on September 27.
The ECP said it reviewed the progress on the delimitation process today and decided that the final list of constituencies will be published on November 30 after hearing the objections and suggestions related to the delimitation.
The polls of the National Assembly and Provincials Assemblies will be held in the last week of January 2024 following the completion of the 54-day election schedule, the ECP statement added.
The ECP’s statement finally ended the uncertainty surrounding the elections as the previous Pakistan Democratic Movement (PDM)-led government’s move to approve a new census mandated the electoral body to carry out new delimitation before holding polls, sparking fears of an undue delay in polls.
Following the premature dissolution of national and provincial assemblies earlier in August this year, the ECP was required to hold elections within 90-day stipulated time period, meaning the polls should take place no later than November 6.
However, the ECP said it was constitutionally bound to draw fresh boundaries ahead of the elections, hence holding elections within a 90-day time period was not possible.
Key political parties including Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI), Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP), and others also urged the Election Commission to hold polls at the earliest to end prevailing uncertainty in the country.
The United States and the United Kingdom have also called for free, fair and timely elections in the country.
Last month, US Ambassador Donald Blome also met CEC Sikander Sultan Raja to reaffirm his country’s support for “free and fair elections”, reiterating that choosing Pakistan’s future leaders is for the Pakistani people to decide.
The development came days after President Arif Alvi suggested a cut-off date for the holding of polls in a letter to CEC Raja Sultan Sikander.
The Election Commission has sent a letter to the chief secretaries of the four provinces, ordering them to start preparations for the general elections.
The Commission has sent an emergency letter to the chief secretaries of Punjab, Sindh, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and Balochistan.
The Election Commission has said that under Article 220 of the Constitution, all executives are bound to assist the Election Commission, Chief Secretaries should assist the Election Commission for the preparation of elections.
The Election Commission has said that the Chief Secretaries should direct the concerned Deputy Commissioners to contact the District Election Commission immediately.
Reacting to the development, majority of the political parties termed it as positive while Awami National Party (ANP) called for a specific date, however, Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) decided to challenge the move in court.
PTI to challenge ECP decision
Following the announcement of the poll date, the Imran Khan-led party has decided to challenge the Election Commission’s decision to conduct elections in the last week of January.
Speaking to Geo News, PTI’s core committee member Niazullah Niazi said that the Constitution calls for elections within 90 days and exceeding the period is unlawful.
“We will challenge the Election Commission’s decision. The way the ECP is working it does not look like a constitutional institution,” Niazi said, adding that President Arif Alvi has the authority to announce a date for polls.
‘Uncertainity should end now’
Senior PML-N leader Ahsan Iqbal said that his party welcomed the decision by the ECP as it has ended the uncertainty about the delimitation.
“Everyone knew from the first day that the election commission was bound to conduct delimitation after the census,” said Iqbal.
“Earlier, the ECP had said to complete the delimitation process by December 15 after which the polls were estimated to be held in February next year. However, our party had given suggestions to the ECP to reduce the delimitation period. In the light of those suggestions, the ECP reduced the delimitation time till November 30 and then announced elections at the end of January after the 54-day period,” he added.
Iqbal further said that uncertainty should end after the announcement of polls, adding that all the parties should start preparations now. “It is important that the elections are held peacefully and a stable government is formed that takes the country out of the economic crisis,” the former planning minister said.
He added that any party that comes into power should take all the parties on the same page and work on the economic agenda with consensus.
Iqbal said that the ECP announced the election schedule after the completion of the delimitation.
‘Let’s hope for the the best’
PPP leader Qamar Zaman Kaira, in a carefully worded response, said that he could give his own opinion on the matter but viewed the development as “positive”.
While speaking to Geo News, Kaira said he is not in a position to share his party’s version which had been demanding the ECP to announce the election schedule as per the Constitution.
The former federal minister said that uncertainty would end and things would hopefully move in a positive direction. “Let’s hope for the best.”
‘Date should be announced’
Meanwhile, the ANP — a member of the former ruling alliance — urged the poll organising authority to fix a date for the election.
When asked to comment on the ECP announcement, senior ANP leader Zahid Khan said it is their demand that elections be held in 90 days and the party raised the same issue when they met Chief Election Commissioner Sikandar Sultan Raja.
He, however, mentioned that the electoral body had shared its obligations and expressed the inability to hold polls in 90 days.
Khan also urged the ECP to announce the date.
MQM-P praises ECP announcement
MQM-P leader Mustafa Kamal hailed the government and the ECP for fulfilling their demand of holding elections after carrying out fresh delimitation.
“Yes, we are satisfied with this development,” he told Geo News.
However, he said it is yet to be seen whether the ECP would address the party’s concerns regarding the demarcation of constituencies after publishing an initial list of delimitation.
The former Karachi mayor said his party would file a complaint if they found any problem with the delimitation process.
Kamal also said that fair and free elections are not possible in Sindh in the presence of the incumbent provincial chief election commissioner.