ISLAMABAD: The Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) has yet to issue the Senate election schedule for four seats of the Federally Administered Tribal Areas (Fata) as President Mamnoon Hussain has so far failed to grant approval to extend the Elections Act, 2017 to Fata.
The election regulator has, however, issued the schedule for two Senate seats from the federal capital, while also appointing a returning officer.
According to an ECP notification issued on Monday, Zafar Iqbal Hussain, Additional Secretary (Training Research and Evaluation), will serve as returning officer for two seats of Senate falling in Islamabad.
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The Senate elections on a general and a technocrat seat are scheduled on March 3 in the Parliament House.
According to the ECP schedule for two Islamabad seats, the last date for filing nomination papers is February 10; names of nominated candidates will be published on February 11; scrutiny of nomination papers will be carried out on February 13; appeals against acceptance or rejection of nomination papers can be filed on February 16; the appeals will be disposed of by the tribunal on February 19; the final list of candidates will be displayed on February 20; withdrawal of candidature can be made on February 21; and polling will be held on March 3 in the Parliament House.
The elections on the 46 seats falling in the four provinces would be held in the respective provincial election commission offices located in Karachi, Lahore, Peshawar and Quetta.
The vote on four Fata seats will be held at the Parliament House, but their schedule has not been issued since the president has yet to grant approval for extending the elections act to the tribal areas.
According to sources in the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N), the party leadership has asked the president not to grant approval to extend the elections act to Fata through a presidential ordinance till the party finalises its candidates for the four Fata seats.
However, a source in the Presidency told The Express Tribune that the FATA Ordinance would be issued soon to pave the way for Senate vote on four Fata seats.
With the announcement of the Senate election on two Islamabad seats earlier on Sunday, polls would now be held on 48 out of 52 seats in the upper house. The 46 seats from the four provinces include 12 each from Punjab and Sindh and 11 each from Balochistan and Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa.
The ECP had earlier announced schedule for only 46 seats from the provinces, and excluded Fata and Islamabad – the two areas where the Elections Act, 2017 had not been extended.
Instead of carrying out the desired legislation, the federal government got a presidential ordinance issued to pave the way for the elections on two Islamabad seats.
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Speaking to The Express Tribune, ECP’s former secretary Kanwar Dilshad strongly criticised the Ministry of Law and Justice for looking over Fata and Islamabad in the elections act. He held PM’s Special Assistant on Law Barrister Zafarullah and former law minister Zahid Hamid responsible for negligence in the context.
“There would be no need to bring a presidential ordinance if prior legislation was done to extend the elections act to Fata and Islamabad. This is the height of negligence. Responsibility should be fixed on whosoever is responsible for this, and action should be taken accordingly,” demanded Dilshad.
Under the existing constitutional provisions, no act of parliament could be applied to Fata without the president’s approval, he said, adding that the legislation to extend the elections act to Fata should have been done before seeking president’s approval.
Despite the introduction of the presidential ordinance, the government would still need to carry out parliamentary legislation to extend the elections act to Islamabad and Fata “because a presidential ordinance lapses after 120 days and can be extended for as many days only once before it lapses permanently,” said Dilshad.