Govt weighs options to delay Punjab, K-P polls

ISLAMABAD: The ruling alliance is busy discussing not only the length of delay of the Punjab and Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa (K-P) assemblies’ elections by utilising the parliamentary forum, among others, but also contemplating on holding general elections across the country in October this year, sources privy to the consultations said on Monday.

The consultations about delaying the polls in the two provinces via resolutions and legislation from parliament as well as urging the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) are being held at a time when President Dr Arif Alvi has already announced the April 30 date for the elections in Punjab.

The president announced the date after the ECP, while following the order of the Supreme Court, apprised him that it was ready to hold elections between April 30 and May 7, 2023.


Though the ECP also wrote to K-P Governor Haji Ghulam Ali, in line with the apex court’s order, he has yet to respond to the polls supervisor or announce the date for elections in the province.

A key leader of the Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) said that all the allied parties in the ruling alliance were in favour of holding general elections in October but only the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) was “undecided”.

The PPP leader said that the plan was to hold all elections in October instead of holding the provincial assemblies’ elections first and then the rest of the polls, adding that once PML-N made its mind, parliament’s forum would be used in this regard.

A PML-N stalwart, however, opined that all polls should be held as per the Constitution, adding that polls in Punjab and K-P should be held in April and the elections on the National Assembly’s seats in October this year.

When asked if it was feasible and if allies were okay with it, the PML-N leader replied that it didn’t matter what the parties thought as the ECP had to proceed as per the Constitution.

Another key member of the ruling alliance with knowledge of the developments confirmed that the ruling alliance was contemplating on a new proposal to delay the elections in Punjab and K-P through parliament as well as by writing to the ECP but stressed that nothing had been finalised yet.

In fact, he revealed, it had not yet been finalised if a review petition would be filed or not against the Supreme Court’s judgment through which it had asked the president and the K-P governor to set date for provincial assemblies’ polls after consulting the ECP.

However, Pakistan Institute of Legislative Development and Transparency (PILDAT) President Ahmed Bilal Mehboob said that the government couldn’t delay the polls through resolution or legislation, because a constitutional amendment would be required to do so and for that the government didn’t have the numbers.

The PILDAT chief said that only the ECP had the power under section 58 (Alteration in Election Programme) of the Election Act of 2017 to change the schedule of the elections. He pointed out that the ECP delayed local bodies’ elections in Karachi thrice under this section.

“Only the ECP can delay polls in provinces but only if the government gives solid reasons for it,” Mehboob said, adding that there was no time limit in the section and the ECP could either alter or bring a new schedule for the polls.

The Section 58 (Alteration in Election Programme) (1) states that notwithstanding anything contained in section 57, the Commission may, at any time after the issue of the notification under sub-section (1) of that section, make such alterations in the Election Programme announced in that notification for the different stages of the election or may issue a fresh Election Programme as may, in its opinion to be recorded in writing, be necessary for the purposes of this Act.

The only condition in it is that the commission shall inform the president about any alteration in the election programme made under this sub-section.

The Section 58(2) states: “Save as otherwise provided by law, if a candidate has already submitted his nomination papers before the notification under sub-section (1), he shall not be required to again submit his nomination papers under the fresh Election Programme.”

In background discussions, the members of the ruling alliance shared that the proposal of holding general elections in October was under consideration, keeping in view the precarious security situation, legal complications in holding elections separately, and the whooping cost of the polls when the country was facing severe financial crunch.

Though the apex court has given judgment and the ECP is gearing up to hold elections, they question how would the parties run campaigns during Ramazan as elections’ date is fixed right after Eid.


Similar sentiments were openly shared by Interior Minister Rana Sanaullah when he seconded the statement of Jamiat Ulema-e-Islam-Fazl (JUI-F) chief Maulana Fazlur Rehman, who is also the president of the Pakistan Democratic Movement (PDM), to delay polls for various grounds ranging from security to shortage of funds.

At a press conference, the interior minister said that Fazl was a senior leader of the PDM and his “valuable” opinion would soon be discussed in a PDM meeting. If PDM rejected it, Sanaullah said, a statement from the federal government would come. Keeping the security situation in K-P and Balochistan, he said, it was certain that election campaign could not be run there.

In his press conference on Sunday, Fazl raised concerns on the Supreme Court judgment and holding of elections; questioned how campaigns would be run amid security concerns and how would an amount of Rs80 billion be allocated for polls when the country is facing severe financial crunch.

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