KARACHI: Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) Chairman Bilawal Bhutto-Zardari on Saturday distanced his party from his father, former president Asif Ali Zardari’s statement backing the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) to hold polls after the delimitation of constituencies is completed.
Earlier in the day, PPP Co-chairman Zardari expressed full confidence in the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP), saying that fresh delimitation under the census 2023 was mandatory.
However, the PPP after a central executive committee (CEC) meeting on August 25 demanded that polls be held within 90 days as obliged by the Constitution.
During a press conference in Badin, PPP chairman Bilawal was asked about the difference in his and Zardari’s stance on elections.
At this, Bilawal told the reporter to ask Zardari about what he meant with his statement. He recalled the PPP’s CEC meeting, headed by him and the former president, where the forum considered both opinions regarding the time of elections and all the party’s legal experts told the meeting that the Constitution makes it clear that elections have to be conducted within 90 days of the dissolution of assemblies.
“I am bound to [follow] President Zardari on our family matters but as far as political matters, Constitution and party policy are concerned, I’m bound to [follow] my workers’ and my party’s central executive committee’s decisions,” said Bilawal while taking to the media in Badin.
Today, Zardari came to the defence of the ECP, asserting that a fresh delimitation exercise has become obligatory following the notification of the new census.
Zardari’s statement, conveyed by the PPP through its social media accounts, emphasised the electoral authority’s mandate to conduct elections in accordance with the Constitution.
Zardari’s statement followed calls from various PPP leaders, including party chairman Bilawal, urging the ECP to announce the date for general polls and adhere to the constitutional requirement of holding elections within 90 days.
The party reiterated these demands during its delegation’s consultative meeting with members of the ECP.
Uncertainty around polls
The decision to hold the consultative process came after uncertainty emerged on when the polls will be conducted.
The Shehbaz Sharif-led government dissolved the National Assembly on August 9, while Sindh and Balochistan assemblies were also prematurely dissolved to allow the electoral authority to hold elections in the country within 90 days instead of 60 days if the legislature completed its constitutional tenure.
However, the ECP may not be able to hold the polls within the stipulated time as the Council of Common Interest (CCI), days before the dissolution of the assemblies, approved the 7th Population and Housing Census 2023.
The CCI meeting chaired by then-prime minister Shehbaz Sharif approved the final results of the census reporting the country’s population at 241.49 million with a growth rate of 2.55%.
The CCI approval made it constitutionally mandatory for the poll watchdog to hold elections following fresh delimitations in the light of the results of the 7th census.
According to Article 51 (5) of the Constitution, the seats of the National Assembly to each province and the federal capital shall be allocated on the basis of population in accordance with the last preceding census officially published.
Subsequently, on August 17, the ECP announced the schedule of new delimitations to be carried out as per the new census approved by the CCI.
As per the schedule, the new delimitation of constituencies nationwide will be notified in December this year.
The ECP schedule showed that fresh delimitation will take nearly four months, meaning the general elections in the country cannot be held within 90 days of the dissolution of the provincial and national assemblies.