ISLAMABAD: Two key state functionaries — Chief Justice of Pakistan Saqib Nisar and army chief General Qamar Javed Bajwa — have recently hinted at a possible delay in Elections 2018, however the authority concerned, the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP), does not see any sound reason for polls’ postponement.
Although, the statements of the CJP and COAS as reflected in the media recently have furthered doubts about the holding of polls on time, senior Election Commission of Pakistan officials insist there is no reason for delay in elections.
Chief Justice Saqib Nisar was quoted by a columnist having said the issue of delimitations had not been resolved as yet, and this could linger on causing a delay. The CJP feared: “It may revive the Doctrine of Necessity once again, which would not augur well for the country.” Justice Saqib Nisar though wished that the government resolved this issue before completion of its term so that elections were not delayed.
The army chief, who recently met a group of journalists, is quoted by a senior media person as having assured that elections will be held on time elections will be held on time and will be fair and free. The Army Chief, according to the report, declared that a level playing field would be provided to all the political parties. “However, the Chief did not rule out a delay in elections for a few weeks owing to technical reasons,” the report said. The technical reasons as referred to by the Army Chief are not explained in the report but generally it is believed that these reasons are connected with the controversies related to the process of delimitation of constituencies.
Informed and well-placed ECP officials, told The News on condition of anonymity that so for the Commission has received only 89 petitions against the preliminary report on delimitation but hardly any of these petitions contain any serious objections. These sources said that the Commission is still receiving objections, which will be decided as per the timeframe set by the ECP and on the basis of principles laid down in the law. These sources explained that the ECP has done the delimitation of the constituencies in accordance with the mechanism evolved and enacted by the Parliament. These sources said that as against 2018, the objections received against delimitation of constituencies before 2002 elections were too high, yet there is no question raised about the delay of polls. He disclosed that in 2002 a total of 985 complaints were received, while this time only 89 complaints/representations have been received so far. In none of these 89 complaints, the ECP sources said any substantive law point has been raised. The ECP is sure that if there is no other reason to delay the polls, the issue of delimitation of constituencies will be settled in routine and as per the law of the land.
According to these officials, the work of delimitation of constituencies has been independently done by the ECP without any pressure or influence from any other institution or authority. As per the Constitution, the caretaker government cannot go beyond its 60 or 90-day term to do the assigned job — holding of general elections — and no institution regardless of its powers is armed with the authority to extend the stay of the interim setup.
The caretaker government will remain in place only for 60 days in case the Parliament completes its term or 90 days if the Assembly is dissolved for early elections, and is mandated by the Constitution to hold parliamentary elections “within” this period. The Article 224 says a general election to the National Assembly or a provincial assembly shall be held within a period of 60 days immediately following the day on which the term of the legislature is due to expire unless it has been sooner dissolved.
However, if the assembly is dissolved prematurely, the caretaker government will have 90 days to hold the polls. In the instant case, since the legislature is being wrapped up on its last day, 60 days will be available to the interim government to organise the elections.