Sunday July 21, 2024

ECP issues schedule for Punjab elections

Elections in Punjab to be held on April 30

By Nausheen Yusuf
March 08, 2023
An undated image of the Election Commission of Pakistan building. — Facebook/@ECP
An undated image of the Election Commission of Pakistan building. — Facebook/@ECP

ISLAMABAD: Following President Arif Alvi's announcement, the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) on Wednesday released the schedule for general elections in Punjab — months after the provincial assembly was dissolved on the directives of Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) Chairman Imran Khan.

President Alvi had already fixed April 30 (Sunday) as the date for elections in Punjab after the Supreme Court ruled that the elections to the Punjab and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa assemblies should be held within the stipulated period of 90 days. 

The apex court had allowed the ECP to propose a poll date that deviates from the 90-day deadline by the “barest minimum”, in case of any practical difficulty, following which consultations were held and April 30 was finalised.

“In pursuance of the dissolution of the Provincial Assembly of Punjab on 14th January 2023 and Order dated 1st March 2023 passed by the Hon’ble Supreme Court of Pakistan in Suo Motu Case No. 1 of 2023, Constitution Petition No.1 of 2023 and Constitution Petition No.2 of 2023 and announcement of date by the President of the Islamic Republic of Pakistan as 30th April 2023, the Election Commission of Pakistan in terms of Article 224(2) and 254 of the Constitution of the Islamic Republic of Pakistan read with Section 57(2) of the Elections Act, 2017 (Act No. XXXIII of 2017) and all other powers enabling it in the behalf, hereby call upon the electors of the Provincial Assembly of Punjab constituencies to elect their representative from each of these constituencies to the general seats,” the ECP notification read. 

1.Notification of the election programme 08.03.2023
2.Public notice to be issued by the Returning Officer on 11.03.2023
3. Dates for filing of nomination papers with the Returning Officer by the candidates
4.Publication of names of the nominated candidates 15.03.2023
5.Last date for scrutiny of nomination papers by the Returning Officer 22.03.2023
6.Last date for filing appeals against decisions of the Returning Officer rejecting/accepting the nominations papers 27.03.2023
7.Last date for deciding appeals by the Appellate Tribunal 03.04.2023
8.Publication of revised list of candidates 04.04.2023
9.Last date for withdrawal of candidature and Publication of revised list of candidates 05.04.2023
10.Allotment of election symbols to contesting candidates 06.04.2023
11.Polling day 30.04.2023

The election conundrum 

Last year in November, former prime minister Khan announced that his party would disassociate itself from the “current corrupt political system” by quitting the two provincial assemblies where PTI was in power.

Despite several obstacles put up by the coalition government, the Punjab and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa assemblies were dissolved on January 14 and January 18, respectively. Under the law, the elections are to be held within 90 days after the dissolution of assemblies.

This meant that April 14 and April 17 were the deadlines for holding general elections in Punjab and KP assemblies, but the two governors instead of setting dates for elections after receiving the proposal from the ECP had advised the commission to consult stakeholders.

Chief secretaries and inspectors-general of the two provinces — during meetings with the ECP — had said they were short of the police force and talked of terrorism threats, making out a case for putting off elections.

The finance division had also expressed its inability to provide funds and the interior ministry told the ECP that the army and civil armed forces would not be available.

On February 17, President Alvi had invited Chief Election Commissioner (CEC) Sikandar Sultan Raja for an urgent meeting regarding consultations on election dates but the ECP told him he had no role in the announcement of dates for general elections to provincial assemblies and the commission was aware of its constitutional obligation in this regard.

Subsequently, the president unilaterally announced April 9 as the date for holding general elections for the Punjab and KP assemblies.

The move drew sharp criticism from his political opponents, who accused him of acting like a PTI worker while the ECP said it would announce the poll schedule only after the “competent authority” fixes the date.

However, after the governors' refusal to fix a date for polls, the issue landed in the Supreme Court which directed the president to announce the election date in consultation with the commission and told KP Governor Haji Ghulam Ali to also consult with the ECP.