President Arif Alvi and Chief Election Commissioner (CEC) Sikandar Sultan Raja on Thursday agreed on Feb. 8, 2024 as the date for the next general elections, ending prevailing uncertainty over polls, with the Supreme Court to be informed of the consensus today (Friday).
In accordance with directions of the Supreme Court, an ECP delegation led by CEC Raja and Attorney General for Pakistan Mansoor Usman Awan met Alvi at the President’s Secretariat to deliberate on a date for polls. “The president heard about the progress the ECP has made in delimitation and for elections,” read a statement issued by the Presidency. “After a detailed discussion, the meeting unanimously agreed to hold general elections in the country on Feb. 8, 2024,” it added.
Earlier, while hearing petitions seeking timely elections, the Supreme Court had directed the ECP to consult with the president on a poll date, stressing that once it was shared with the court, it would be “set in stone,” and there could be no further deviation. During proceedings, Chief Justice of Pakistan (CJP) Qazi Faez Isa noted that elections were no longer possible within 90 days of the dissolution of assemblies, and sought assurances from the petitioners that they wanted a date for polls rather than lengthy deliberations on fixing blame for the elections delay.
Appearing before the court, the ECP’s lawyer had said the electoral body would conduct elections on Feb. 11, with the SC saying it should consult with the president and submit a consensus date. On Friday morning, AGP Awan conveyed the Feb. 8 date to the court, with the three-member bench directing him to submit detailed minutes of the meeting between Alvi and the CEC, duly signed by both.
The announcement of the date—though yet to be formally notified—has been welcomed by all political forces of the country, with major parties the Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP); Pakistan Muslim League (Nawaz), and Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) all stressing they had sought timely polls.
Speaking with Geo News after the announcement, the PPP’s Nayyer Bukhari said it would have been better for polls to be held within 90 days as per the Constitution, but a definitive date was a welcome development. Similarly, PMLN senior leader Ayaz Sadiq told a gathering in Quetta that it was a positive development and the ECP had exercised its mandate in fixing a date for polls.
The PTI had a more mixed response. While Senator Ali Zafar, who is also representing the party in court, termed the SC’s directions “historic” and said he did not wish to dwell on who was responsible for the delay, the party issued a statement on X demanding accountability of the CEC. It made no mention of the fact that the incumbent CEC was appointed by the PTI chairman while he was prime minister.