Law Minister Azam Nazeer Tarar on Monday maintained that President Arif Alvi does not have the authority to announce a date for elections of provincial assemblies after they have been dissolved, adding he can only announce the date for election of the National Assembly.
Alvi, a few hours earlier, had announced April 9 as the date for elections in Punjab and Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa, claiming he was taking this step to “avoid a breach” of the Constitution, as polls must occur no later than 90 days after an assembly is dissolved. Referring to this measure, Tarar said Alvi had no constitutional jurisdiction to announce a date for polls in Punjab and KP and had thus violated the Constitution.
Addressing the National Assembly, he said Article 48(5) of the Constitution allowed the president to announce the date for the election of the National Assembly after it was dissolved by him. Meanwhile, he explained, Article 105(3) allows a governor to announce the date for holding elections to the provincial assembly if he dissolved that assembly. Stressing that the Punjab Assembly had not been dissolved by the governor, he said this was why the governor had not issued a date for polls.
At the same time, stressed the minister, the president could not fix any election date as the matter was pending before a court of justice. As per Article 218(3), he said, it was the responsibility of the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) to conduct the elections.
Lamenting that people who talked about upholding the Constitution had themselves violated the Constitution in the past, he noted that the president had dissolved the National Assembly within three minutes of the former deputy speaker ruling a vote of no-confidence illegal, which was later set aside by the apex court. He also recalled that the president had even refused to administer oath of office to Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif.
Earlier, Defense Minister Khawaja Asif similarly said that the president’s announcement was unconstitutional. Alvi, he alleged, was “toeing his party’s [PTI] line.”