The Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) on Thursday assured both the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) and the Jamiat Ulema-e-Islam (Fazl) that it will conduct general elections “as soon as possible,” adding that it will seek to ensure a level playing field is available to all contesting candidates.
The ECP, earlier this week, announced it would begin consultations with delegations of all major political parties to establish a roadmap for general elections and deliberate on any concerns they might have ahead of the polls. The JUIF and PTI were the first parties it met, with the electoral body set to meet the PMLN today (Friday) and the PPP next week.
According to a statement issued after Thursday’s meetings, the ECP said the PTI had stressed on holding elections within 90 days of the dissolution of an assembly, as required by the Constitution. It had also urged the electoral body to delay the ongoing delimitation exercise—spanning Aug. 17-Dec. 14—and called for the immediate release of party leaders and workers arrested in connection with the May 9 riots. Similarly, the party sought a “level playing field” for display of party flags and organization of rallies and demonstrations.
Meanwhile, the electoral body said, the JUIF delegation had said that while it was a legal requirement to conduct elections within 90 days of an assembly’s dissolution, the ECP should first complete the delimitation process following the approval of the digital census by the Council of Common Interests. The delegation emphasized the updating of electoral rolls; correcting of polling stations; and appointment of impartial and honest returning officers and district returning officers.
Speaking with media after the meeting, PTI Senator Ali Zafar said the PTI was ready to extend its support for free and fair elections, adding the delimitation exercise had no value until articles 51 and 106 of the Constitution had been amended to re-determine the number of National Assembly seats allocated to the provinces and the federal capital. He also said the ECP did not have the power to decide the constituencies at present and noted the CCI’s approval of the census was “illegal,” as caretakers represented Punjab and Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa.
Zafar further contended that the delegation had informed the ECP that the PTI lacked “equal opportunities” so long as party chief Imran Khan remained in prison.
The JUIF’s Maulana Haideri, separately, told media after his party’s meeting with the ECP that they had informed the electoral body they wanted elections within the ambit of the Constitution. “We want free and fair elections,” he said, adding the ECP had been urged to make arrangements ensuring the history of 2018 general elections were not repeated. “We should learn from the experiences. Such an election should be held in which the entire nation has faith,” he said.