The Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) on Friday reiterated its demand for general elections within 90 days of the dissolution of the National Assembly, claiming it had been “misled” that the Council of Common Interests (CCI)’s approval of the digital census results would not lead to any delay in the conduct of polls.
Addressing a press conference at Bilawal House in Karachi after a meeting of the party’s central executive committee (CEC), party leader Nayyar Bukhari suggested the PPP could resort to a “legal course” to ensure the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) met the 90-day constitutional deadline for conducting elections. However, he said, this had not yet been decided and a final decision would only be taken after the next meeting of the party’s CEC, schedule for September.
Acknowledging that Section 17 of the Elections Act, 1997 mandated fresh delimitation after the approval of census results, Bukhari said the Constitution took precedence, as Article 224 made it clear elections must be held within 90 days of the early dissolution of the National Assembly. “No law can overwrite the Constitution,” he said, adding the Constitution would be violated if polls weren’t held within 90 days.
To a question on why the PPP had supported a delay to elections in Punjab and Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa if it believed the Constitution was being violated in this instance, Bukhari claimed it was a result of the Supreme Court “rewriting” the Constitution. Only Parliament has the right to make amendments to the Constitution, he said, adding the situation had been different due to the controversy over whether the relevant petition was dismissed by a 4-3 verdict, or accepted by a 3-2 ruling.
Former Sindh chief minister Murad Ali Shah, who voted to approve the census results at the CCI meeting, claimed that the participants were informed it would not cause any delay to polls. “That’s why we agreed to approve it with consensus,” he claimed, though multiple reports from the CCI meeting indicate otherwise, suggesting a ‘U-turn’ from the PPP.
According to Shah, the census results had made clear that there would be no increase in the number of seats, which would have required amendments in the Constitution. “We only wanted elections in 90 days. Fresh delimitation was never a subject in this whole scenario,” he claimed, adding the census results had been “controversial.”
PPP Senator Sherry Rehman, who served as climate change minister in the PDM-led government, said the party would conduct another internal meeting after its scheduled moot with the ECP next week. She also lashed out at the caretaker government, stressing it lacked the mandate to make any changes in the Constitution or change laws. “We are only worried that these caretakers shouldn’t become chair-takers,” she said. “You [caretakers] are here only to invest your energy and time for the timely elections in three months,” she added.