ECP excuses itself from consulting president over polls

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ISLAMABAD, FEB 19: /DNA/ – The Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) responded to the second letter by President Arif Alvi on Sunday saying it could not enter into consultations with him over provincial assembly elections as the matter was in court.

It may be noted that President Alvi on Friday had invited Chief Election Commissioner (CEC) Sikandar Sultan Raja for an ‘urgent meeting’ on February 20 for consultations on the dates for the polls in Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa (K-P) and Punjab.

The meeting was scheduled to take place at Aiwan-e-Sadr in accordance with Section 57(1) of the Elections Act, 2017, which provides that the president is entrusted to announce the date for the polls after consulting the ECP.

“The commission is well aware of its constitutional and legal obligations and has already conveyed its response to the earlier letter, dated February 8, 2023, explaining the complete background [of the matter],” stated the letter penned by Secretary ECP Omar Hamid Khan.

The electoral watchdog maintained that after the dissolution of the Punjab and K-P assemblies, the governors were approached for the appointment of election dates as per the dictates of the Constitution.

It added that while the governors have responded to the letters sent by the ECP, neither has thus far announced a date for the polls.

In compliance with the Lahore High Court (LHC) orders, the commission said, a consultation was held with the Punjab governor on February 14, but he “regretted to appoint a poll date and informed that he would avail legal remedy against the judgment of the LHC as it was not binding on him”.

The ECP also made mention of the intra-court appeals it has filed against the order as it was asked by the LHC to hold the consultation without any such provisions having been provided in the Constitution, alongside other writ petitions presently pending in the Peshawar High Court.

“It is clarified that the Consitution does not empower the ECP to appoint a poll date in case of the dissolution of a provincial assembly by the governor or due to afflux of time as provided in Article 112(1) of the Constitution,” the letter highlighted.

Stressing the subjudice nature of the matter, the ECP regretted saying that it “may not enter into a process of consultation with the office of the president” but maintained that “the final decision in the matter will be taken by the commission in its meeting scheduled to be held on Monday” (tomorrow).