As the uncertainty surrounding general elections ended with the Election Commission of Pakistan’s (ECP) announcement of a timeframe for the polls, major political parties in the former ruling alliance welcomed the development, hoping that it would remove the apprehensions regarding the political situation of the country.
In a much-awaited move, the electoral authority has announced that elections will be held in January next year following the completion of the delimitation process.
Polls were supposed to have taken place within 90 days, but the election watchdog said it needed more time to redraw constituencies following the latest population census.
“The final list of constituencies will be published on November 30. After that, the elections will be held in the last week of January 2024, after a 54-day election programme,” the commission said in a statement.
Reacting to the development, Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N), Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) and Muttahida Qaumi Movement-Pakistan (MQM-P) viewed it as positive while Awami National Party (ANP) called for a specific date, however, Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) decided to challenge the move in court.
Following the announcement of the poll date, the Imran Khan-led party has decided to challenge the Election Commission’s decision to conduct elections in the last week of January.
PTI’s core committee member Niazullah Niazi said that the Constitution calls for elections within 90 days and exceeding the period is unlawful.
“We will challenge the Election Commission’s decision. The way the ECP is working it does not look like a constitutional institution,” Niazi said, adding that President Arif Alvi has the authority to announce a date for polls.
Senior PML-N leader Ahsan Iqbal said that his party welcomed the decision by the ECP as it has ended the uncertainty about the delimitation.
“Everyone knew from the first day that the election commission was bound to conduct delimitation after the census,” said Iqbal.
“Earlier, the ECP had said to complete the delimitation process by December 15 after which the polls were estimated to be held in February next year. However, our party had given suggestions to the ECP to reduce the delimitation period. In the light of those suggestions, the ECP reduced the delimitation time till November 30 and then announced elections at the end of January after the 54-day period,” he added.
Iqbal further said that uncertainty should end after the announcement of polls, adding that all the parties should start preparations now. “It is important that the elections are held peacefully and a stable government is formed that takes the country out of the economic crisis,” the former planning minister said.
He added that any party that comes into power should take all the parties on the same page and work on the economic agenda with consensus.
Iqbal said that the ECP announced the election schedule after the completion of the delimitation.
PPP leader Qamar Zaman Kaira, in a carefully worded response, said that he could give his own opinion on the matter but viewed the development as “positive”.
Kaira said he is not in a position to share his party’s version which had been demanding the ECP to announce the election schedule as per the Constitution.
The former federal minister said that uncertainty would end and things would hopefully move in a positive direction. “Let’s hope for the best.”
Meanwhile, the ANP — a member of the former ruling alliance — urged the poll organising authority to fix a date for the election.
When asked to comment on the ECP announcement, senior ANP leader Zahid Khan said it is their demand that elections be held in 90 days and the party raised the same issue when they met Chief Election Commissioner Sikandar Sultan Raja.
He, however, mentioned that the electoral body had shared its obligations and expressed the inability to hold polls in 90 days.
Khan also urged the ECP to announce the date.
MQM-P leader Mustafa Kamal hailed the government and the ECP for fulfilling their demand of holding elections after carrying out fresh delimitation.
“Yes, we are satisfied with this development,” he said.
However, he said it is yet to be seen whether the ECP would address the party’s concerns regarding the demarcation of constituencies after publishing an initial list of delimitation.
The former Karachi mayor said his party would file a complaint if they found any problem with the delimitation process.
Kamal also said that fair and free elections are not possible in Sindh in the presence of the incumbent provincial chief election commissioner.