Voice News

President has no role in provincial election date: ECP

ISLAMABAD: The Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) told President Arif Alvi on Saturday in no uncertain terms that he has no role in announcing dates for general elections to provincial assemblies, and that the commission is well aware of its constitutional obligation in this regard.

“According to Article 48(5) of the Constitution, where the National Assem­bly is dissolved by the President, he shall appoint a date for the election and appoint a caretaker cabinet in accordance with the provision of Article 224 or as the case may be under Article 224-A. Similarly, if a governor of a province dissolves a provincial assembly under Article 105(3)(a), he must set a date for general elections to the assembly and appoint a caretaker cabinet,” Chief Election Commissioner Sikandar Sultan Raja responded to President Alvi’s letter.

The CEC’s letter draws the president’s attention to the commission’s constitutional obligation under Article 218 to organize and conduct elections (3).

The letter also objects to the language used by the president, as it says: “The office of president is the highest constitutional body and president is head of the state whereas all other constitutional and legal bodies are under constitutional obligation to offer utmost respect for the President office. We are confident that it is impartial, and we anticipate parental guidance from this prestigious office towards other constitutional bodies, as well as better word choice when addressing such other constitutional institutions.”

The ECP’s response comes ten days after the president’s letter to it, and a day after Mr. Alvi wrote another letter, this time inviting the CEC to an urgent meeting on February 20 to discuss general election dates. In his letter to the CEC, the president expressed his displeasure with the commission’s “apathy and inaction” in failing to respond to his earlier letter.

Mr. Alvi stated that he had hoped that the ECP would recognize its constitutional obligations to proceed and act accordingly, but was extremely disappointed by the commission’s “poignant” approach to this critical issue.

In his letter, the CEC states that the commission is doing everything possible to fulfill its constitutional duties without being pressured or fearful.

It mentions that the provincial assemblies of Punjab and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KP) were dissolved on January 14 and 18, respectively, after which it approached the governors of both provinces and asked them to announce dates for general elections, with reminders sent to them on January 29.

It refers to petitions filed in the Lahore High Court by the Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI) and three others, which directed the ECP on February 10 to hold a consultative meeting with the Punjab governor and set a date for the elections.

According to the report, on February 14, the election commission secretary, special secretary, and director general (law) met with the Punjab governor, who expressed regret for failing to announce the poll date and expressed his intention to approach the legal forum.

“The Election Commission is fully aware of its constitutional obligations to organize and conduct the election and has taken all necessary steps in this regard. It is worth noting that the roles of the Hon’ble President and the Governor of a Province are clearly stated in Articles 48(5) and 105(3) of the Constitution, respectively.”

It emphasizes that the Commission is not authorized by the Constitution to set a date for a general election to an assembly in the event of dissolution. According to the report, the Commission was mandated to organize and conduct the election to the Senate of Pakistan, as well as by-elections to the Assemblies under Section 102 and the Senate, without any consultation.

In this regard, it has performed satisfactorily because a large number of by-elections for the Senate, National Assembly, and provincial assemblies were held on schedule and without delay on the part of the Commission. The most recent instance is the prompt declaration of the election dates for National Assembly seats from which MNAs have resigned, the statement notes.

According to the CEC, if the Constitution’s drafters had intended to provide the commission the authority to announce the polling date in the event of the dissolution of an assembly, it would have been expressly stated in Articles 48, 58, 105, or 112. In addition, the Elections Act of 2017 does not grant the commission the authority to announce a polling date outside of Senate elections and all by-elections.

He claimed that the Lahore High Court stated that the commission must consult the governor when choosing the polling date when interpreting several Constitutional clauses. The office of the LHC registrar has objected to the Election Commission’s filing of a civil miscellaneous application before the Lahore High Court, arguing that the matter has already been decided and the application is not maintainable, following a meeting with the Punjab governor.

The panel has also contested the LHC ruling on the grounds that neither the Constitution nor the law permits the commission to consult with the governor.

Related Articles

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *