PPP gives vent to its ‘poll date’ grievances in ‘pleasant’ ECP meeting

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ISLAMABAD: Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) tabled on Tuesday its concerns regarding the general elections in a meeting with the Election Commission of Pakistan’s (ECP) Chief Election Commissioner (CEC) Sikandar Sultan Raja.

The party has repeatedly expressed reservations regarding the polls’ date, saying that they should be held within the 90-day period as per the Constitution.

On August 17, the electoral body announced the schedule of new delimitations to be carried out as per the new census approved by the Council of Common Interests (CCI) earlier this month.

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.

“We had a meeting with the ECP in a pleasant environment during which we put all our reservations,” said PPP Vice President Sherry Rehman in a post-meeting press conference.

Rehman said that it is the electoral body’s responsibility to conduct the elections, however, the Constitution says the polls should be held within 90 days after the dissolution of the National Assembly.

PPP leader Nayyar Bukhari said that the Constitution says elections should be conducted within the given time period, adding that it is very important to give a date for elections.

“ECP heard our stance and will inform us about the polls after a meeting. We will finalise our next action plan in the CEC meeting in Lahore,” said Bukhari.

Meanwhile, the ECP is in continuous consultations with the political parties.

The electoral body has invited Balochistan Awami Party (BAP) to hold discussions tomorrow (Wednesday) at 2pm while an Awami National Party (ANP) delegation — comprising Mian Iftikhar Hussain, Zahid Khan, Wakil Khushdil and Wakil Rahim — will hold a meeting at 11am.

“There will be consultations with BAP on general elections,” said ECP.

The ECP has already held consultations with the Pakistan Muslim League Nawaz (PML-N), Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf and Jamiat Ulema-e-Islam-Fazl (JUI-F).

In those meetings, the JUI-F and PML-N had backed the ECP to hold general elections after the delimitation while the PTI had urged the electoral watchdog to drop the process and conduct polls within 90 days.

MQM-P backs ECP on holding polls post-delimitation
A day earlier, Muttahida Qaumi Movement-Pakistan (MQM-P) and Jamaat-e-Islami (JI) met CEC Raja to discuss the uncertainty surrounding the general elections.

MQM-P backed the ECP in holding polls after the delimitation of constituencies while JI asked the electoral body it should have issued a poll schedule along with the delimitation to remove ambiguity.

The MQM-P delegation led by the party’s Senior Deputy Convener Dr Farooq Sattar informed the ECP that its decision to carry out the delimitations was “correct”, adding that they had reservations about the 2017 census.

On the other hand, the JI told the electoral authority that it should have started the consultation process with political parties earlier. It added that the elections have to be held in 90 days if the assemblies are dissolved prematurely.

However, it said that since the ECP has started the delimitation process it would have been better if the election schedule had been issued along with it to “remove ambiguity”.

Earlier this week, sources had told Geo News that the ECP had decided to consult all major political parties, including the PTI, regarding the date of general elections that are expected early next year.

As per the officials, who spoke on the condition of anonymity, the ECP had decided to consult the political parties separately on developing an election roadmap as well as issues related to delimitation and voter lists.

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.