President Dr Arif Alvi on Monday held another meeting with caretaker Law Minister Ahmed Irfan Aslam for consultation on the upcoming general elections amid rife speculation of an imminent announcement for the poll date.
A Geo report today stated that the president was expected to give the election date at “anytime”, according to “sources privy to the development”.
The meeting was held at Aiwan-i-Sadr in Islamabad in continuation of the ongoing consultation process on elections between the president and the interim government, a week after their first meeting on the subject.
“The continuation of the consultation process with good intent will be positive for democracy in the country,” the president was quoted as saying in a statement posted on social media platform X (formerly Twitter).
Alvi had emphasised the need to hold elections within 90 days of the National Assembly’s dissolution in last week’s meeting with Aslam.
He had also stressed the need to uphold the supremacy of the Constitution, adding that decisions should be taken in accordance with the spirit of the supreme law.
According to Article 224 of the Constitution, elections must be held within 90 days after the dissolution of the National Assembly. This makes the general election due in November.
But since the delimitation exercise is unlikely to be completed before Nov 30, elections may be pushed back to late January or early February.
The president, Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP), political parties and other stakeholders take differing stances on the time frame for holding general elections and who has the authority to decide the final poll date.
The ECP has ruled out elections this year, while the 90-day limit for holding polls ends on Nov 9.
It reasons its decision to push elections beyond Nov 9 on the basis of the notification of results of the new digital 2023 census and Section 17(2) of the Elections Act, which states: “The commission shall delimit constituencies after every census is officially published.”
However, President Alvi had invited Chief Election Commissioner (CEC) Sikandar Sultan Raja last month for a meeting to “fix an appropriate date” for general elections.
In his letter to the CEC, the president had quoted Article 244 of the Constitution, saying he was duty-bound to get the elections conducted in the 90 days’ prescribed period as the National Assembly was dissolved prematurely on August 9.
But a recent amendment to the Elections Act 2017 empowered the ECP to announce the dates for polls unilaterally without having to consult the president.
Citing this change to the law, the CEC had responded to the president, saying that participating in a confab with him to decide the election date would be of “scant importance”.
Subsequently, the president had sought the law ministry’s advice on the matter, and the ministry communicated to the president that the powers to announce the poll date rested with the ECP after he sought its advice on the matter.
Interim Prime Minister Anwaarul Haq Kakar took the same position on the matter during his first interview last week after assuming the top office.
Speaking on Geo News programme Jirga, PM Kakar had said as per the law, deciding the date for general elections was the ECP’s prerogative.
However, he had added, the caretaker government would act in accordance with the court ruling if the Supreme Court issued a binding judgement for elections to be held within the prescribed period of 90 days.
Meanwhile, voices have been growing louder recently from many quarters, including the PPP, PTI and Pakistan Bar Council, for either the president or the ECP to announce the election date.
The PTI reiterated its demand from Alvi to announce the election date in a letter addressed to the president today, saying the Constitution obliged him to do so and he was thus responsible for announcing the date for polls so the public could choose their elected representatives.
Alvi does not have right to announce poll date: Tarar
Meanwhile, PML-N deputy secretary general Attaullah Tarar said in a press conference in Islamabad that the president did not have the right to announce the election date after the completion of his five-year term.
He said that as an interim president following the completion of his term, Alvi could not give the poll date, saying it would be illegal to do so.
Tarar added that any such attempt would amount to causing instability and uncertainty in the country
He also addressed the caretaker government and ECP’s role, saying they were not bound to follow any action taken by Alvi after the completion of his presidential term.
Additional reporting by Abdullah Momand.