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ECP seeks powers to announce election date

ISLAMABAD: The Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) has proposed amending sections 57 and 58 of the Elections Act, 2017 to give it the authority to change the election date and schedule.

Chief Election Commissioner (CEC) Sikandar Sultan Raja wrote letters to National Assembly Speaker Raja Pervez Ashraf and Senate Chairman Sadiq Sanjrani, while ECP Secretary Omar Hamid wrote a letter to Prime Minister’s Principal Secretary Tauqir Shah requesting that the ECP regain the powers it had before the 1985 changes.

Shakeel Malik, Parliamentary Affairs Secretary, was also written to. The ECP will announce the date for the elections, according to the proposed change in Section 57, whereas the polls supervisory body will be authorized to modify the election schedule, according to the proposed change in Section 58.

It will also give the election supervisor the authority to change the date of the polls based on the current situation.

If the amendments to sections 57 and 58 are made and a bill in this regard is passed, the Supreme Court’s schedule for Punjab elections can also be changed.

The Supreme Court has set May 14 as the election date in Punjab.

The CEC has requested that the NA speaker and Senate chairman amend the Elections Act, 2017 bill before it is passed by parliament, as well as that the ECP announces the date for polls.

The letter stated that the ECP had the legal authority to announce the election date, but the polls supervisory body was stripped of that authority later in 1985, during the Zia martial law period.

It was also stated that the ECP was stripped of its authority in Daska and other “important cases.”

The Daska NA-75 by-election in February 2021 was marred by allegations of ballot tampering, abduction of officers on duty, and undue police and administration influence.

From the attempt to gerrymander the election results to the disappearance of the ECP staff and the legal fight to re-polling under strict supervision, the by-polls gained significant rights.

On February 19, the ECP suspended the flawed verdict and ordered re-election in the constituency. Despite the litigation, the Supreme Court supported the ECP stance, and a subsequent ballot in April returned PML-Syeda N’s Nosheen Iftikhar in a close race against PTI’s Ali Asjad Malhi.

According to the letter, an investigation into corrupt officers was dropped, weakening the ECP’s writ, and the bureaucracy was given the green light to commit corruption.

The election supervisor stated that by proposing amendments to sections 57 and 58 of the Election Act of 2017, it was now attempting to reclaim its “original powers,” as mentioned in the 1976 law, and ensure fair and transparent elections in the country.

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