The Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) on Friday meets for the third time in as many days to finalize its proposal for a date to hold elections in Punjab and Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa, while keeping in mind the month of Ramzan and subsequent Eid holidays.
After the Supreme Court on Wednesday ruled that elections must be held within 90 days of an assembly’s dissolution but allowed for the “barest minimum” deviation from the deadline due to the delay in announcing a date for polls, the ECP commenced meetings comprising its entire membership to deliberate on an appropriate schedule. Per the apex court’s directions, the ECP must announce a schedule for polls in Punjab after consultations with President Arif Alvi, while it must consult with Governor Haji Ghulam Ali to fix a date for polls in Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa.
Meetings on Wednesday and Thursday failed to finalize any proposal, but sources within the electoral body have confirmed that it is inching closer to a conclusive proposal for the president. They said that the meetings, chaired by Chief Election Commissioner (CEC) Sikandar Sultan Raja, were leaning toward suggesting polling dates in the last week of April, roughly a week after Eidul Fitr, which is expected to fall around April 22. This timeline, they noted, could be stretched to the first week of May in accordance with ground realities. ECP officials had, earlier, already conveyed that they wished to conduct polls after the conclusion of Ramzan and Eid.
Once the ECP has finalized an exact date, it would send a letter to President Alvi with its proposal, and would subsequently announce the election schedule after securing his approval.
The Supreme Court, in its ruling, had noted that the minimum time required for an election schedule was no longer achievable for Punjab and KP within the 90-day deadline due to the delay in announcing a date. The PTI-led government dissolved the Punjab Assembly on Jan. 14, while it dissolved the KP Assembly on Jan. 18, meaning the deadline for holding elections in the provinces were April 14, and April 17, respectively. However, both these dates fall within Ramzan, which observers maintain could affect turnout.
In its ruling the apex court also directed the federal government to ensure it provided the ECP with the resources it requires to conduct elections, including necessary funds and security personnel. Earlier, the finance ministry had informed the ECP it lacked the funds for polls, while both the Army and civil armed forces had also expressed an unavailability of personnel due to ongoing counter-terror operations nationwide.