President Alvi discusses polls with interim law minister

The Election Commission of Pakistan has ruled out elections this year, while the 90-day limit for holding polls following the dissolution of the National Assembly ends on Nov 9.


President Dr Arif Alvi meets caretaker Federal Minister for Law and Justice Ahmed Irfan Aslam on Monday. PHOTO: PID/ DAWN

September 5, 2023

ISLAMABADPresident Dr Arif Alvi discussed matters pertaining to elections with caretaker Law Minister Ahmed Irfan Aslam on Monday and stressed the need to make decisions “in accordance with the spirit of the Constitution”.

The interim minister called on the president at Aiwan-i-Sadr in Islamabad where Alvi emphasised the need for “upholding the supremacy of the Constitution”, a statement issued by the Presidency said.

The meeting takes place as the president, Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP), political parties and other stakeholders take differing stances on the time frame for holding general elections and who has the authority to decide the final poll date.

The ECP has ruled out elections this year, while the 90-day limit for holding polls following the dissolution of the National Assembly (NA), as mandated under Article 224 of the Constitution, ends on November 9.

It reasons its decision to push elections beyond November 9 on the basis of the notification of results of the new digital 2023 census and Section 17(2) of the Elections Act, which states: “The commission shall delimit constituencies after every census is officially published.”

But last month, President Alvi invited Chief Election Commissioner (CEC) Sikandar Sultan Raja for a meeting to “fix an appropriate date” for general elections.

In his letter to the CEC, the president quoted Article 244 of the Constitution, saying he was duty-bound to get the elections conducted in the 90 days’ prescribed period once the National Assembly is dissolved prematurely.

But a recent amendment to the Elections Act 2017 empowered the ECP to announce the dates for polls unilaterally without having to consult the president.

Citing this change to the law, the CEC responded to the president, saying that participating in a confab with him to decide the election date would be of “scant importance”.

Subsequently, the president sought the law ministry’s advice on the matter, and the ministry communicated to the president that the powers to announce the poll date rested with the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) after he sought its advice on the matter.

Interim Prime Minister Anwaarul Haq Kakar took the same position on the matter during his first interview after assuming the top office.

Speaking on Geo News programme ‘Jirga’, PM Kakar said as per the law, deciding the date for general elections was the ECP’s prerogative.

However, he added, the caretaker government would act in accordance with the court ruling if the Supreme Court issued a binding judgement for elections to be held within the prescribed period of 90 days.

PTI says PM’s statement on May 9 ‘cause for concern’

PM Kakar also spoke about incarcerated PTI chief Imran Khan during the interview, terming May 9 protests over the former premier’s arrest “an attempt towards mutiny and civil war whose target and nucleus was the army chief, those around him and his team.”

Responding to this statement, the PTI said today that the interim premier’s statement on the context of the events that occurred after Imran’s arrest was “very surprising and cause for concern”.

“The caretaker prime minister, in retrospect, is still unable to properly understand the Constitution and his mandate. Anwaarul Haq Kakar’s government has the sole responsibility of holding clean and transparent elections within the stipulated period of the constitution, i.e. 90 days.

“The caretaker prime minister seems to be talking and making statements on every subject except the holding of elections,” the party said in a statement posted on social media platform X.

It said the nation was still awaiting an “impartial and high-level judicial investigation into all aspects of the May 9 events”.

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