The Great Unknown

The dissolution of two provincial assemblies has created an unprecedented situation

By advising the dissolution of the Punjab Assembly, and with it poised to advise that of the KP Assembly, the PTI has taken the country into the uncharted territory of elections in two provinces being held separately from the national election. It appears that Punjab Governor Balishur Rehman is prepared either to dissolve the Punjab Assembly, or at best do nothing, which will result in automatic dissolution non Tuesday. It also means that two of the provinces will have elections held twice this year, for while Punjab and KP will have to elect new provincial assemblies in 90 days, according to the constitution, the remaining two provinces and the National Assembly, will have to dissolve at the latest on 12 August, with elections no later than October 12. The dissolved assemblies must have their elections held by April14. So long as the Election Commission of Pakistan remains within the constitutionally mandated 90-day limit, it may choose the same date for the two princes.

Apart from the political implications, the logistical implications will rest on the ECP for holding more than one election. Punjab will actually undergo three separate elections, for it is due to hold local government polls as well. The advantage of holding same-day elections are basically economic: it’s cheaper, because one saves on TA/DA for the polling staff, which has otherwise to be summoned again for the provincial poll, and paid separately for that. Elections are not held to facilitate the ECP or polling staff, but this consideration cannot be ignored. It is also too early to predict problems, but whereas previously both federal and provincial governments were caretakers, now there will be caretaker governments in two provinces, while the federal government will be political. The real challenge for the ECP will come with a nationwide election towards the end of the year, with two of the provincial governments of a political party, dedicated to having their candidates elected.  The process of naming caretaker CMs is an entirely separate headache.

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Whereas before the dissolution, the pressure was on PTI chief Imran Khan, to show that he did have a majority in Punjab, now the pressure is on the PDM federal government, which now faces the reality of the dissolved assemblies, and thus the logic of the situation, which says that the country can ill afford having two elections, where one is not only possible, but desired by one party.

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The Editorial Department of Pakistan Today can be contacted at: [email protected]

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