Meeting yields as President Alvi, CEC fix Feb 8 date for polls

  • Development comes during a meeting between CEC, President Alvi held on SC instructions
  • SC given electoral watchdog until Friday to inform it of date after consulting President
  • Earlier ECP informed apex court that elections can be held in country on February 11

ISLAMABAD: President Dr Arif Alvi and Chief Election Commissioner Sikandar Sultan Raja on Thursday unanimously agreed to hold general elections in the country on February 8, 2024, during a meeting held at Aiwan-e-Sadr following instructions of the Supreme Court of Pakistan.

The meeting comes hours after the Supreme Court (SC) gave the electoral watchdog until Friday (tomorrow) to inform it of the date after consulting the president regarding the matter.

Earlier in the day, the Supreme Court (SC) directed the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) to consult the President of Pakistan regarding a final date for holding general election in the country.

Led by Chief Justice Qazi Faez Isa, a three-member benching comprising Justice Aminuddin Khan and Justice Athar Minallah heard the pleas seeking elections within 90 days of the dissolution of the assemblies.

The Supreme Court Bar, the PTI and other petitioners in the case pleaded that the general elections in the country should be held within 90 days of the dissolution of the assembly by the Constitution.

The delegation comprises Chief Election Commissioner Sikander Sultan Raja, and all provincial chiefs, as well as DG law.

“On today’s order of the Supreme Court of Pakistan, the Chief Election Commissioner of Pakistan, Mr Sikandar Sultan Raja, along with the Attorney General for Pakistan, Mr Mansoor Usman Awan, and four members of the Election Commission of Pakistan, came to meet President Dr Arif Alvi, at Aiwan-e-Sadr, to discuss the date for holding the forthcoming General Elections in the country,” read a statement issued by the Presidency.

It said the president heard about the progress the ECP has made in delimitation and for elections, adding that after a detailed discussion and deliberation, the meeting unanimously agreed to hold general elections in the country on February 8, 2024.

During the meeting, CEC Raja had officially suggested February 11, 2024, as the proposed date for the upcoming general elections to the presidency.

Attorney General for Pakistan, Mansoor Awan also held meetings with the president and the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) officials as instructed by the apex court.

During the meeting, ECP officials, in accordance with the Supreme Court’s guidance, proposed February 11 as the recommended date for conducting the general elections.

Earlier, a delegation of the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) reached the President House to hold consultations with President Alvi regarding the final date for polls.

The meeting came hours after the Supreme Court gave the electoral watchdog until tomorrow to inform it of the date after consulting with the president regarding the matter.

The delegation comprised Chief Election Commissioner Sikander Sultan Raja, and all provincial chiefs, as well as DG law.

Separately, the electoral watchdog also held an emergency meeting in which it discussed the change in circumstances following the apex court’s instructions.

According to sources, the ECP huddle discussed the upcoming meeting with the president and the date for polls in the country. The lawyer representing the electoral body in the apex court was also consulted on the stance the ECP will take in court.

Participants of the meeting included the CEC, secretary ECP, the legal team and others.

‘General elections can be held on February 11’

Earlier, the Election Commission of Pakistan informed the Supreme Court on Thursday that the general elections can be held in the country on February 11, 2024.

The ECP’s reply comes after Chief Justice of Pakistan Justice Qazi Faez Isa had hinted at wrapping up the hearing of a set of petitions seeking holding of elections in the country within 90 days after the dissolution of the national and provincial assemblies.

The Supreme Court resumed the hearing on Thursday with a three-judge bench comprising the CJP, Justice Amin-ud-Din Khan and Justice Athar Minallah. The petitions were filed by the Supreme Court Bar Association (SCBA), the PTI, Munir Ahmad and Ibadur Rehman.

During the last hearing, CJP Isa observed that it was “not possible” to meet the 90-day deadline for holding elections. The CJP in his written order stated that the petitioners were contending that the census was notified as an excuse to delay the elections.

“The petitioners said that holding the election in 90 days is a constitutional requirement. According to the petitioners, elections are not possible within 90 days after the delimitation of constituencies and the census,” said the court.

At the outset of the hearing on Thursday, Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) lawyer Farooq Naek informed the apex court that his party had submitted the request to become a party in the case.

After this, PTI’s lawyer Barrister Ali Zafar launched his arguments by saying that the party has limited its petition to only seeking timely elections. “Elections must be held within 90 days after the dissolution of assemblies as per the Constitution,” he stressed.

At this, CJP Isa said that the plea seeking polls within a 90-day period has then become ineffective. “The court was told that it was impossible to hold polls within 90 days in the previous hearing,” he remarked.

Ali Zafar then said that PTI only wants elections, adding there won’t be any parliament and law if elections are not conducted.

“Giving a date and schedule of elections are two different things. President Dr Arif Alvi had written a letter to hold consultations with the ECP,” he remarked.

The CJP observed that the president had written in his letter that the court should look into the matter of elections. “Is the president saying that court should take notice of the issue pertaining to elections?” he questioned.

Ali Zafar replied that the president had said that the court can also review the matter.

CJP Isa then said that the president did not give any date for elections in his letter. “Did the president not fulfil his constitutional duty?” he asked.

Ali Zafar said that the president fulfilled his responsibility by consulting on the elections.

On this point, Justice Athar Minallah asked why the president wrote the letter in September and not on August 15 after the assemblies were dissolved on August 9.

“Did the president only ask the Supreme Court verbally to take notice of the matter?” asked the CJP, saying the head of state wrote the letter to the ECP and not to the Supreme Court.

CJP Isa then questioned whether the apex court had the authority to give a date for polls. “Is it necessary for the president to consult the prime minister to give a date?” he inquired.

Ali Zafar replied that consultations are not necessary as the president has his own constitutional duty to give a date.

Meanwhile, Justice Minallah said, “The command of the Constitution is very clear that the president had to give the date [for elections], there is no disagreement in it.”

 

Saleem Jadoon
Saleem Jadoon
News Editor at Pakistan Today

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