President Arif Alvi, in a letter addressed to Chief Election Commissioner (CEC) Sikandar Sultan Raja, has urged the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) to “immediately” announce a date for elections in Punjab and Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa, maintaining he does not believe there are no circumstances justifying any delay for polls.
Noting that under the Constitution polls must be held within 90 days of the dissolution of any assembly, he stressed this was the “primary and essential” duty of the ECP. “Thus, it is ultimately the [ECP], which if it fails to discharge its functions and duties, is to be held responsible and answerable for the violation of our Constitution,” he added.
Claiming it was his constitutional responsibility as head of state to remind the CEC and ECP members about their fundamental duty as per their oath and the Elections Act, 2017, he claimed timely elections were essential “to avoid serious consequences of breach/violation of the Constitution/law and announce election schedule of the two dissolved assemblies forthwith.”
Citing the example of the U.S.—which he described as one of the oldest democracies of the current era—he claimed its strength was derived from never delaying elections. Recalling that Washington had conducted elections during times of conflict, he referred to polls in 1812—when the U.S. was at war with Britain—and 1864—when the country was in the midst of a civil war—as proving there was no justification for any delay for elections.
“I am of the firm view that there are no such circumstances as may furnish any justification for delaying or postponing of elections, in fact if such postponements of constitutionally mandated elections are evaluated throughout the world in recent history, they have morphed into serious long term set-backs to democracy,” he wrote, while praising the ECP for taking “an appropriate constitutional” step in announcing by-elections on National Assembly seats vacated after the acceptance of PTI lawmakers’ resignations.
“It will thus be in the fitness of things and in accordance with Constitution and law i.e. Elections Act, 2017, to immediately announce the date of polls by issuing election schedule and put an end to such dangerous speculative propaganda for these and future general elections,” he added.
There have been mounting concerns from within the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf of a delay to polls in Punjab and Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa, as the governors of both provinces have refused to issue any date for elections. In separate letters, the governors have urged the ECP to consult with security agencies and stakeholders before setting a date for polls, noting that the country’s security and economic situation did not permit polls at this stage. Several members of the federal government have also, in recent days, claimed there is no legal bar on delaying elections beyond 90 days after the dissolution of assemblies, stressing that an economically weakened Pakistan cannot afford multiple elections on the same constituency. The PTI leadership maintains that any delay would be akin to treason and has warned of taking the matter to court. PTI chief Imran Khan has also claimed he would launch a ‘Jail Bharo’ (fill jails) movement to protest any attempt to delay polls.