ISLAMABAD, Pakistan – Pakistan stands at a critical crossroads as President Arif Alvi is poised to announce the date for the upcoming general elections, sparking intense debates and speculation among political circles. Sources with knowledge of the situation have indicated that President Alvi could make the announcement at any moment, further adding to the political tension in the country.
The issue of when to hold the elections has been a subject of fierce contention, with different political factions offering varying opinions. The caretaker law minister, for instance, believes that the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) should exclusively possess the authority to determine the election date.
Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI), however, has urged President Alvi to exercise his Constitutional mandate to announce the election date. In a letter penned by the party’s General Secretary Omar Ayub Khan, PTI cited Article 48(5) of the Constitution of the Islamic Republic of Pakistan, 1973, which stipulates that when the President dissolves the National Assembly, he must set a date for the general elections within 90 days.
PTI also cited two significant Supreme Court judgments that reaffirmed the President’s authority to fix the election date when dissolving the National Assembly. They argued that this responsibility is a Constitutional obligation and part of the President’s mandate.
Section 57 of the Elections Act, 2017, does grant the ECP the power to schedule elections. Still, it is explicitly stated that this power is subject to the Constitution, meaning that the President’s authority takes precedence.
The letter emphasized the importance of adhering to the Constitution and the law, as well as respecting the Supreme Court’s decisions. It called upon President Alvi to promptly announce the election date to allow the nation to choose its representatives and steer the country in line with its democratic principles.
Delimitation and Election Controversy
The dissolution of the National Assembly on August 9, 2023, approved by President Alvi, marked the beginning of a caretaker government’s tenure and initiated the countdown to the general elections. As per Article 48(5), the elections must be held within 90 days of dissolution, setting a tentative date of November 9, 2023.
However, a crucial development has emerged concerning the delimitation process, adding complexity to the electoral timeline. The Council of Common Interest (CCI), a coalition government body, unanimously endorsed the 7th Population and Housing Census 2023, which directly influences the allocation of National Assembly seats among provinces and the federal capital, in accordance with Article 51(5) of the Constitution.
In response, the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) announced a schedule for the new delimitation process, extending beyond the 90-day constitutional limit. The extended delimitation timeline includes:
- September 8 to October 7: Delimitation of constituencies across the country.
- October 10 to November 8: Submission of proposals regarding constituencies.
- September 5 to September 7: Allocation of constituencies for national and provincial assemblies.
- August 21: Establishment of constituency committees in the four provinces.
- August 31: Completion of administrative tasks related to constituencies.
- November 10 to December 9: ECP’s decision on objections to constituencies.
- December 14: Final publication of delimitation results.
This extended delimitation process has raised concerns about the election timeline, suggesting that the general elections may occur beyond the 90-day limit. The situation remains fluid, with political parties, the ECP, and the President’s office navigating through the complexities of the election process.
As Pakistan braces for this critical juncture in its democratic journey, the nation eagerly awaits President Arif Alvi’s announcement of the election date, hoping for a peaceful and transparent electoral process that upholds the principles of democracy and the rule of law.