Thursday May 23, 2024

News Analysis: 10 reasons why polls in Punjab, KP unlikely on April 30

Background discussion with experts reveal there are many reasons why elections might not be held

By Fakhar Durrani
March 11, 2023

The ECPs ballot boxes. The ECP website.
The ECP's ballot boxes. The ECP website.

ISLAMABAD: The Election Commission of Pakistan has announced the polls schedule in Punjab and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa but political leadership is still not sure if they will be held or not. There are 10 reasons why it is highly unlikely that elections will be held as per the announced schedule.

After announcing the election schedule in Punjab and KP, the Election Commission of Pakistan held a meeting presided over by Chief Election Commissioner and discussed the arrangements for the upcoming general elections. A PTI delegation, headed by Shah Mehmood Qureshi, also visited the ECP and held a meeting with the ECP authorities. According to experts, regardless of the announcement of the schedule, the overall country’s atmosphere doesn’t look like there will be elections in the coming 50 days.

Background discussion and briefings with experts reveal that there are many reasons why the elections might not be held but following are the 10 key reasons for the postponement of elections.

1. If the elections are held in Punjab and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and the winning party forms the government in the two provinces, it will create a constitutional crisis because the general elections for the National Assembly in these provinces will be held later. For the general elections, there is a need for a caretaker setup. How will a caretaker setup be formed in the presence of an elected provincial government? How will this constitutional requirement be addressed once the newly elected governments take charge in these provinces after the elections? Holding the elections in two provinces separately will further deepen the crisis rather than resolve it.

2. The ECP in its meeting held on March 9, 2023 has demanded over 350,000 security personnel to secure the election process in the two provinces. The experts believe that keeping the security situation in view, it will be difficult to deploy such a large number of security personnel for election duty.

3. The ECP has demanded Rs20 billion to hold elections. Keeping the current economic condition, sparing Rs20 billion will be a difficult task for the government.

4.The total number of registered voters has increased from 105.96 million to 122.19 million. The increase of 17 million voters means the ECP has to also increase the total number of polling stations, requiring an added polling staff. This will be a challenging task for the ECP to manage all these requirements within a limited time period.

5. The ECP will require security personnel again for the general elections for National Assembly. According to the experts, how can the armed forces spare such a large number of troops twice in one year? They believe that this is one of the reasons why the establishment would want general elections in the country simultaneously, not separately.

6. Imran Khan has demanded returning officers from the judiciary to oversee the election process. It is highly unlikely that the judiciary could spare such a large number of its judicial staff for two elections within a year.

7. PTI will never take part in the elections if Imran Khan is arrested in any case before the elections. Or if the elections are held and the results are not as desired by Imran Khan, will the PTI accept the election result? In both cases, the elections would be a futile exercise ending up deepening the crisis further.

8. Before every general election, the ECP trains the staff for holding the elections. The election body hasn’t even trained the master trainers yet. How would the entire staff be trained in such a short period to hold the elections on April 30th?

9. The ECP has finalized the returning officers for Punjab and none of them is from the judiciary. Will PTI accept the elections held under the supervision of non-judicial officials? It will be another crisis if any of the political parties don’t accept the election result.

10. Before every general election, there is an emergency situation in the ECP headquarters and everyone works either in double shifts or stays for longer hours in the office to finalize the election arrangements. However, there is no such atmosphere or emergency-like situation in the ECP, which reflects that the election body is not preparing for the elections.