The Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) on Sunday declined to attend a meeting with President Arif Alvi for consultations on a date for polls in Punjab and Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa, clarifying that the matter is currently sub judice.
In a letter responding to an earlier missive sent by the president, the ECP noted that the issue of designating a date for polls in the two provinces—whose assemblies were dissolved in mid-January—was currently pending before various judicial forums. As a consequence, it said, Chief Election Commissioner (CEC) Sikandar Sultan Raja could not meet the president to discuss it. However, it added, a final decision on consulting with the president would be taken by the entire membership of the ECP during a meeting on Monday (today).
Last week, President Alvi sent a letter addressed to the CEC expressing “dismay” over a delay in announcing a date for polls in Punjab and KP, and invited him to a meeting at Aiwan-e-Sadr on Monday afternoon to deliberate on the matter. In its response, the ECP said the electoral body was well aware of its constitutional obligations, adding that it had discussed the president’s letter.
It said Article 105 of the Constitution, read with Article 112, provided the procedure for announcing a date for polls after the dissolution of provincial assemblies. Recalling that the ECP had already approached the governors of both Punjab and Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa to announce a date for elections, it also noted that a meeting had been held between the electoral watchdog and the Punjab governor in light of a Feb. 10 ruling by the Lahore High Court (LHC). However, it noted, the governor had preferred to challenge the ruling rather than issue a date for polls.
The commission said it had sought further guidance from the LHC, adding that it had also challenged the judgement because the Constitution did not provide any process of consultation with the governor for setting poll dates. At the same time, the letter explained, three writ petitions have been filed in the Peshawar High Court (PHC) for elections in KP. Emphasizing that the Constitution does not empower the ECP to announce a poll date if a provincial assembly is dissolved by the governor or through inaction as provided in Article 112(1), it added: “For the subject matter at hand, due to the reasons stated above and matter being sub judice at various judicial fora, regrettably the commission may not be able to enter into a process of consultation with the office of the president.”