Last Updated: September 13, 2023, 20:11 IST
In what could trigger a new Constitutional crisis in cash-strapped Pakistan, President Arif Alvi announced November 6, 2023 as the date when the country will hold its next general elections. CNN-News18 has accessed a copy of the notification issued.
According to the new legislation, only the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) can announce the date of elections. The ECP had recently said the elections could be held in February 2024. Alvi, 74, was a senior member of jailed former prime minister Imran Khan’s Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) party before assuming the presidency.
Pakistan’s National Assembly was dissolved on August 9. The elections in the country should be held within the stipulated time of 90 days after the dissolution of the National Assembly. However, the ECP was set to delay the election in order to carry out delimitation in the light of the new census, which is also a constitutional requirement.
Alvi appointed Anwaar-ul-Haq Kakar as caretaker prime minister in mid-August to run the country until fresh elections.
PRESIDENT ARIF ALVI-ECP CLASH
In the last week of August, Pakistan’s Chief Election Commissioner Sikandar Sultan Raja declined an invitation by Alvi for a meeting to set a date for the general elections, saying under the changed law, the head of the state has no role in determining the poll date and as such there was no use in having a discussion.
“It is imperative to point out that Section 57 of the Elections Act had been amended by Parliament on June 26, empowering the ECP to announce the date or dates for the general elections,” Raja wrote.
“Where the president dissolves the National Assembly, at his discretion, as provided in Article 58(2) read with Article 48(5) of the Constitution then he has to appoint a date for the general elections. However, if the assembly is dissolved on the advice of the prime minister or by afflux of time as provided in Article 58(1) of the Constitution, then the commission understands and believes that the power to appoint a date or dates for elections rests exclusively with the Commission.”
He said the ECP was taking its responsibility of holding general elections in the country “very seriously” and had also invited major political parties to give their views on the electoral map. Raja underscored that the delimitation of constituencies, after the approval of the digital census, was one of the “foundational legal steps” towards holding polls. “In view of the above, the commission (ECP) is of the considered view that participation in the meeting would be of scant consequence,” he said.
ALVI HIT BACK ON X
Alvi, apparently stung by the letter, resorted to social media and said that he had sought the law ministry’s advice on the letter by the ECP chief. The Presidency has asked for advice on the Election Commission of Pakistan’s stance that only it had the authority to decide the election date,” he said in a statement on X.
A few days later, the ECP assured political parties that the general elections would be held by January-end or mid-February, allaying fears about the fate of the polls.
With Agency Inputs