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Thursday June 13, 2024

ECP faces major challenges to implement SC’s order

By Ansar Abbasi
March 02, 2023

ISLAMABAD: The Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) is faced with multiple challenges to hold elections in Punjab and KP within 90 days.

Though the Supreme Court (SC) has ordered to hold elections in the two provinces within 90 days of the dissolution of assemblies in Punjab and KP yet there are some technical issues as well as some logistical hurdles, which need to be sorted out by the ECP to make it possible.

The technical hurdle concerns the minimum 54 days election programme, which is required by the Election Act 2017 to be adopted by the ECP. As more than 45 days have already passed, still holding elections within 90 days of the dissolution of two assemblies is apparently an impossible task.

On the logistical side, the ECP is dependent on the cooperation and facilitation of the federal and provincial governments (Punjab and KP), KP governor, defence and judiciary — all of whom had already shown their reluctance to the commission to hold election within 90 days. Within a few days of the dissolution of assemblies, the ECP had approached the federal government, two governors as well as the provincial governments, defence authorities and judiciary for their cooperation in the holding of elections.

The Ministry of Finance had conveyed to the ECP that the demand of the commission for provision of funds for the conduct of elections is not tenable in view of the fragile economic situation. The Finance Ministry, instead, requested for deferment of the demand till stabilisation of economic situation. The ECP was conveyed by both Punjab and KP governments that they are not in a position to assist the commission in holding elections because of various reasons, including the law and order situation. The commission was told by the Ministry of Interior vide letter dated 08-02-2023 that deployment of civil and armed forces as required by the Election Commission in static mode on “sensitive and highly sensitive” polling stations of the constituencies is not possible. The commission had also written a letter dated February 1, 2023 to the Registrar Lahore High Court for consultation with the Chief Justice of Lahore High Court, Lahore, for appointment of subordinate judicial officers as District Returning Officers and Returning Officers. In response, the Registrar Lahore High Court, Lahore, had conveyed the directions of the Chief Justice and regretted providing the services of the judiciary as DROs and ROs. The Election Commission cannot hold elections on its own and without the support of the federal and provincial governments. Now with the Supreme Court’s latest order, the president will announce the date of election in Punjab whereas the KP governor has to give polls’ date for his province. The ECP is expected to meet on Thursday to start implementing the Supreme Court’s order but it is not clear what response it will get from the Finance Ministry, Punjab and KP governments, Defence and Interior divisions, LHC and PHC.