Monday June 17, 2024

ECP set to announce January 28 as election date: sources

Electoral body expected to apprise Supreme Court in writing within next two days, sources say

By Waqar Satti
October 27, 2023
A woman casts her vote at a polling station in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa. — File
A woman casts her vote at a polling station in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa. — File

ISLAMABAD: The Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) is likely to set January 28 as the date for the upcoming General Elections 2024, sources said on Friday.

With preparations for polls already commenced, the electoral body is expected to apprise the Supreme Court of Pakistan (SC) in writing within the next two days, the sources added.

The apex court had earlier directed the commission to submit its response while hearing a case regarding the timely elections.

Chief Justice of Pakistan (CJP) Qazi Faez Isa, earlier this week, during the apex court's hearing on the issue of timely elections observed that it was “not possible” to meet the 90-day deadline for holding elections and lamented the lack of preparations of the petitioners.

The CJP's remarks came as he is leading a three-member bench comprising himself, Justice Athar Minallah, and Justice Amin-Ud-Din Khan to hear the petitions filed by the Supreme Court Bar Association, Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI), and others seeking elections within the 90-day constitutional limit.

During the hearing, the SCBA lawyer apprised the court that the “90-day period will complete on November 3".

To this, CJP Isa inquired whether it would even be possible to hold the polls within 90 days, to which the lawyer conceded that even if the top court gives the order even then it will not be possible to hold the elections within 90 days.

Ambiguity over polls

The Shehbaz Sharif-led government dissolved the National Assembly on August 9, while Sindh and Balochistan assemblies were also prematurely dissolved to allow the electoral authority to hold elections in the country within 90 days.

Had the assemblies been dissolved on time, the electoral body was constitutionally bound to hold polls in 60 days.

However, the ECP decided against holding polls within the stipulated time as the Council of Common Interest (CCI), days before the dissolution of the assemblies, approved the 7th Population and Housing Census 2023.

The CCI approval made it mandatory for the commission to hold elections following fresh delimitations in light of the results of the census.

Subsequently, on August 17, the ECP announced the schedule of new delimitations to be carried out as per the new census approved by the CCI.

But in September, the commission announced that general elections in the country would take place in the last week of January 2024.

However, before the announcement, multiple petitions were filed in the Supreme Court against the delay in polls.

All the petitioners have asked the apex court to ensure that polls are held within 90 days.

These petitions were filed during the tenure of former chief justice Umar Ata Bandial, however, they were not fixed for a hearing.