President Alvi invites CEC for talks to fix date for Pakistan parliament polls

Published : 23 Aug 2023 08:41 PM

President Arif Alvi has invited Chief Election Commissioner (CEC) Sikandar Sultan Raja for a meeting today or tomorrow to “fix an appropriate date” for general elections.

Alvi wrote a letter to the CEC today, citing the constitutional requirement for the president to decide a date for general elections within 90 days of the dissolution of the National Assembly (NA).

In the letter, posted on the Presidency’s account on X, the president noted that the NA was dissolved on the advice of then-prime minister Shehbaz Sharif on August 9 — three days ahead of its mandated period.

And “by virtue of Article 48(5) of the Constitution of the Islamic Republic of Pakistan, the president is obliged to appoint a date not later than 90 days from the date of dissolution for the holding of general elections of [the] assembly”, the letter read.

In view of this, he added, the CEC was invited to meet him today or tomorrow to set an “appropriate date” for elections.

While the president has cited the constitutional provisions that elaborate on his role in deciding the election date, a recent amendment to the Elections Act 2017 empowered the Election Commission of Pakistan to announce the dates for polls unilaterally without having to consult the president. Alvi’s invitation to the CEC also comes against the backdrop of the Election Commission of Pakistan having ruled out the of holding elections this year, following the notification of the latest 2023 digital census.

Since the NA was dissolved three days before the end of its constitutional term, Article 224 of the Constitution mandates that elections be held within 90 days of the dissolution of the assembly.

But at the same time, Section 17(2) of the Elections Act states that “the commission shall delimit constituencies after every census is officially published.” In line with this requirement, the ECP said last week the process of fresh delimitation of national and provincial assembly constituencies was expected to be completed by December 14 — over a month beyond the constitutionally mandated deadline for conducting general elections.

However, after the ECP’s announcement last week, a Dawn report quoted an official of the commission as saying that the electoral watchdog was not legally bound to “immediately” carry out fresh delimitation of constituencies after the official notification of census results.