A major political wrangling is going on in the country over who will set the election date after the dissolution of the provincial assemblies in Punjab and Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa
ISLAMABAD/LAHORE: A major political wrangling is going on in the country over who will set the election date after the dissolution of the provincial assemblies in Punjab and Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa.
The two provincial governors informed the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) through separate letters on Wednesday that it should itself give dates for elections, in consultation with all stakeholders while keeping in view the prevailing security and economic conditions of the country.
KP Governor Haji Ghulam Ali advised the ECP to “consult and take into confidence” political parties and law-enforcement agencies (LEAs) before fixing a date for the polls. “In view of the alarming law and order situation in the province and series of terrorist attacks during the past days, it would be advisable that before fixing a date for the general elections, the Election Commission of Pakistan should consult and take into confidence the relevant institutions/LEAs as well as political parties, to ensure conduct of general elections in a fair, free and peaceful manner in the province,” said Ali in a letter he sent to Chief Election Commissioner Sikander Sultan Raja after a deadly suicide bombing in Peshawar that claimed over 100 lives. The governor’s letter was received by the ECP on Wednesday.
Sources said the ECP had proposed the date of April 9 to 13 for the Punjab Assembly elections, and asked the governor to announce a proposed date, while for Khyber Pakhtunkhwa provincial assembly election, it had proposed the dates between April 14 to 17. The ECP had sent the matter to the provincial governors.
Due to polarisation, the politicians have failed in matters ranging from dissolving the assembly to bringing in caretakers. The ECP had to choose the caretaker chief minister in Punjab while the chief minister in Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa was appointed with consensus. However, the issue of caretaker provincial cabinet in KP could not be resolved with consensus.
Meanwhile, the Punjab governor also refused to give the date for election in Punjab and asked the ECP to consult all stakeholders for reaching consensus on a date after considering the prevailing security and economic conditions in the country. Barrister Nabeel Awan, principal secretary to the governor Punjab, wrote a letter (No PSG-2/2023-18) to the ECP on February 1, 2023, under the subject: “Announcement of the poll date for the conduct of general election to the provincial assembly of the Punjab” in this regard. He said he was replying to the letter of the ECP No F.2 (3)/2023-Cord dated 24-01-2023, and D.O. No. F.2(3)/2023-Coord dated 29-01-2023, on the subject noted above reference.
“I have been directed to state, in the afore noted context, and to ask you to note that the Provincial Assembly of the Punjab stood dissolved in terms of Clause (1) of Article 112 of the Constitution of the Islamic Republic of Pakistan by efflux of time stipulated therein, and not by the order of the Governor of the Punjab.
“Therefore, Clause (3) of Article 105 of the Constitution of the Islamic Republic of Pakistan does not apply in this situation,” the letter said, adding that instead, the election process was now to take place in accordance with Article 224, read with Clause (3) of Article 218 of the Constitution of the Islamic Republic of Pakistan, and the applicable provisions of the Elections Act, 2017.
“I have been directed further to suggest that given the existing security and economic situation of the country, the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) may consult all relevant stakeholders as the date for general election to the provincial assembly of Punjab is fixed, so as to ensure that conditions for holding the elections in a transparent and fair manner are duly met,” he said and added that the ECP should proceed further accordingly.
Governor Balighur Rahman also replied to a letter of former chief minister Punjab Sardar Usman Buzdar that reference was made to his letter dated January 19, 2023. “Whilst you have broached the matter of appointment of a date for conducting elections to the Provincial Assembly of the Punjab, after it got dissolved on January 14, 2023 under Clause (1) of Article 112 of the Constitution of Islamic Republic of Pakistan, it may be appreciated that the dissolution took place by operation of law, and not by the undersigned.
“Please note that there was no such order issued as mentioned by you in para-2 of your letter under reference,” the governor said, adding “lnsha-Allah, my office will discharge its responsibilities and duties in line with the Constitution and law, as and when required.”
The Punjab governor, in another letter (No PSG-1 /2023-19 Dated February 1, 2023), written to the Speaker Punjab Assembly, said that he was replying to him with reference to his D.O. No. PAP/Speaker/2023/51 dated 20-01-2023. “In the afore-noted context, please note that the Provincial Assembly of the Punjab stood dissolved in terms of Clause (1) of Article 112 of the Constitution of the Islamic Republic of Pakistan by efflux of time stipulated therein, and not by the order of the undersigned. It may be appreciated that Clause (3) of Article 105 of the Constitution of the Islamic Republic of Pakistan is only applicable where the Governor dissolves the Provincial Assembly,” he said adding instead, the election process was now to take place in accordance with Article 224, read with Clause (3) of Article 218 of the Constitution and the applicable provisions of the Elections Act, 2017.
A copy of the letter was also sent to the Military Secretary to President, Islamic Republic of Pakistan, Islamabad.
The Constitution of Pakistan and the Election Act 2017 clearly appointed two parties in the matter of fixing the date for the elections. The Article 105(3) of the Constitution of Pakistan clearly stated that after the dissolution of the provincial assembly, the governor will fix the date of elections, which would be held within 90 days.
While Section 57(1) of the Election Act 2017 unambiguously states that the President shall fix and decide the date of general elections in the country with the consultation with the Election Commission of Pakistan. The parliamentary experts say that in the past, the elections of National and provincial assemblies were held in one day, so the president kept announcing the date of the general elections, which is a constitutional requirement. The governors of the two provinces could not decide on the issue of fixing the date of elections in both the provinces, so all eyes are now fixed on the court, which would decide as to who should fix the date for elections.