Home Latest News ECP Refuses Meeting with President Alvi

ECP Refuses Meeting with President Alvi

In response to president’s letter, CEC says amendments to Election Act, 2017 grant electoral body mandate to issue date for polls

by Staff Report

File photo of ECP CEC Sikandar Sultan Raja

Responding to a letter penned by President Arif Alvi, Chief Election Commissioner (CEC) SIkandar Sultan Raja on Thursday said the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) considered any meeting between the two to decide on a date for general elections of “scant consequence” after amendments to the Elections Act, 2017.

A day earlier, the president had written to the CEC, seeking a meeting “today or tomorrow” to decide on a date for general elections under Article 48(5) after the dissolution of the National Assembly earlier this month. In his letter, the president had noted he had dissolved the National Assembly on Aug. 9 on the advice of the prime minister, adding Article 48(5) of the Constitution obliged him to appoint a date for general elections no later than 90 days from the date of the dissolution.

Responding to the letter, CEC Raja pointed out that despite the National Assembly being dissolved by the president on the advice of the prime minister, Section 57 of the Elections Act, 2017 had been amended on June 26. “Prior to the amendment of Section 57(1) of the Act, the president was required to consult the Commission in terms of Section 57 of the Elections Act, 2017, before appointing a date for election,” he wrote, adding that after the amendment, the ECP had been empowered to announce the date or dates for the general elections.

“Where the president dissolves the National Assembly, in his discretion, as provided in Article 58(2) read with Article 48(5) of the Constitution, then he has to appoint a date for the general elections. However, if the Assembly is dissolved on the advice of the prime minister or by afflux of time as provided in Article 58(1) of the Constitution, then the Commission understands and believes that power to appoint a date or dates for elections rests exclusively with the Commission,” it said. It further said that, “with utmost respect,” the ECP did not believe the provisions of the Constitution mentioned in Alvi’s letter were applicable in the current context.

According to Raja’s response, Article 48(1) of the Constitution provides that the president shall act on the advice of the prime minister, while clause 5 contains “non-obstante clause.” As the National Assembly was dissolved on the prime minister’s advice, it said, the provisions of Article 48(5) did not apply.

“It is pertinent to mention here that delimitation of constituencies is one of the fundamental legal steps toward election. In pursuance of the last preceding census officially published on [Aug. 7], the Commission decided to carry out fresh delimitation of constituencies as provided under Section 17(2) of the Elections Act, 2017, to protect the fundamental rights of contesting candidates, political parties and electorates as guaranteed under Article 17(2) of the Constitution,” it said. The CEC also stressed that the ECP was taking its responsibility of holding general elections “very seriously,” and had already invited major political parties to meet it and share their views on the electoral roadmap.

“Notwithstanding the declared position of the Commission referred herein above, it is stated with all reverence, that the Commission holds the office of president in high esteem and it has always been an honor to meet and seek your kind guidance on national issues at an opportune time,” read the letter. “In view of the above, the Commission is of the considered view that participation in the meeting would be of scant consequence,” it added.

The date for the general elections, due in November, remains in flux following the Council of Common Interests’ approval of the result of the 7th Population and Housing Census, which mandates the ECP to conduct fresh delimitations before conducting elections. Earlier this month, the ECP issued a schedule for delimitations, spanning Aug. 17-Dec. 14, indicating elections could not take place any sooner than mid-February.

Both the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf and the Pakistan Peoples Party have protested the apparent delay to elections, stressing that they should be conducted within the stipulated timeframe.

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