The sudden decision of the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) to immediately hold by-elections in eight constituencies of national and provincial assemblies is seen as a setback for the government which has announced its intention to advance the Senate election by a month.
Thursday’s decision of the commission would pave way for the completion of the electoral college for the coming Senate polls slated to be held in March.
ECP sources told The Express Tribune that the elections on vacant seats are expected to be held in the first week of February for which the commission would likely issue a schedule on Monday.
The two National Assembly constituencies where by-elections are to be held are: NA-75 (Sialkot) and NA-45 (Kurram).
The provincial assembly seats awaiting by-polls are: PS-52 (Umerkot), PS-88 (Malir) and PS-43 (Sanghar) in Sindh, PP-51 (Gujranwala) in Punjab, PK-63 (Nowshera) in K-P and PB-20 (Pishin) in Balochistan.
Earlier on December 1, the ECP had decided not to hold any pending by-polls before Jan 31, 2021, in light of the recommendations of the National Command and Control Centre.
Last week, the federal cabinet had decided going to the Supreme Court to hold the Senate elections ahead of schedule through show of hands.
The move created political ripples across the country, with the 11-party anti-government alliance – the Pakistan Democratic Movement or PDM – announced opposing it tooth and nail.
Addressing a news conference in Lahore on Thursday, PML-N de facto President Maryam Nawaz had requested the ECP not to accept this ‘unconstitutional’ demand.
Moreover, the attorney general for Pakistan had clarified that the government “has not proposed holding the Senate elections through show of hands as this method is not possible in the Senate polls, which is based on principles of proportionate representation where the voter elects more than one candidate”.
He said the government had in fact proposed an open ballot as against the secret ballot which was used in the past. “The name of the voter would be written on the back of the ballot paper and would be open to scrutiny,” he added.
Meanwhile, the ECP has appointed district returning officers, returning officers, and assistant returning officers in various constituencies where by-polls will be scheduled next year, according to a notification issued Friday.
"In pursuance of the provisions of Section 50 and 51 of the Elections Act, 2017 (Act No. XXXIII of 2017) read with Section 102 thereof, the Election Commission of Pakistan hereby appoints the following as District Returning Officers, Returning Officers and Assistant Returning Officers for the purpose of holding bye-elections to fill the vacant seats in the under mentioned National/Provincial Assembly constituencies," the notification read.
The appointments were made for NA-45 (Kurram-I), NA-75 (Sialkot-IV), PP-51 (Gujranwala-I), and PK-63 (Nowshera-III), the ECP's notification mentioned.
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