Ministers rule out delay in polls

Tarar also revealed that the ECP had demanded Rs40 billion for the elections this year

Rizwan Shehzad   June 14, 2023
Law minister Azam Nazeer Tarar addresses a press conference hours after the Supreme Court announced its verdict in the Punjab polls delay case. PHOTO: SCREENGRAB/Radio Pakistan


Law Minister Azam Nazeer Tarar on Tuesday sought to quash the speculations about any move to extend the tenure of the National Assembly, stating categorically that the government was committed to completing its tenure as per the Constitution.

Tarar’s statement at an event held by the Pakistan Institute of Legislative Development and Transparency (Pildat) was supported by Information Minister Marriyum Aurangzeb, who told journalists in Lahore that a caretaker set-up would take over in August.

The Pildat forum discussed ‘How Prepared is the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) for Holding Free and Fair General Election’ in Islamabad. Special ECP’s Secretary, Zafar Iqbal, told the forum that they were ready to hold free and fair general election this year.

In his speech at the Pildat forum, the law minister said the government had a clear resolve, and was committed to completing its tenure along with the assemblies, within the constitutional framework in the coming August.

“The time period and method given in the Constitution about the completion of assembly’s tenure, caretaker set-up and extending the required legislative support to the ECP for holding free, fair and timely elections will be followed,” he said.

“The government will abide by the laws and the Constitution and the national and two remaining provincial assemblies – Sindh and Balochistan – will be dissolved when their five-year constitutional term ends in coming August,” he categorically stated.

“The government will go when its tenure is complete,” Tarar said, adding that the rest was up to the ECP. He stressed that the ECP should give people “the kind of elections” the lawmakers had envisioned while making the laws.

About the 90 days requirement for elections of the Punjab and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (K-P) assemblies, the law minister said that the issue was thoroughly discussed but the government was of the view that all elections should be held on a single day, so that there was no influence of the provincial governments on the National Assembly elections.

Tarar also said that the matter went to the Supreme Court, the benches kept changing, decisions kept coming by different judges with frequent intervals, parliament had backed 4-3 decision of the apex court and the last judgment on the matter came on June 12.

He added that there were genuine financial constraints and no one had foreseen that general elections could be held in 2022-23 because the assemblies had consistently been completing tenures in the past.

Referring to PTI’s decision to dissolve the two provincial assemblies in January this year, the law minister said that spending twice on elections in one year was difficult because of severe financial constraints.

Tarar also revealed that the ECP had demanded Rs40 billion for the elections this year. He said the amount had already been allocated in the budget and would soon be transferred.

He assured that the government would extend complete legislative support to the ECP through parliament for holding the elections. He emphasised the role of the ECP, underscoring its legal authority in setting the election date and other matters.

Tarar suggested that if a chief minister or the prime minister would want to take fresh mandate then the elections should be held for the remaining period of the five-year tenure so that the general elections were held simultaneously in the country.

In his address, Tarar offered the government’s perspective on the upcoming general election and outlined key elements of the Elections Act 2017. He lauded the ECP’s proactive approach towards ensuring free and fair elections.

Special ECP Secretary Zafar Iqbal provided an update on the progress made on the ECP’s third strategic plan (2019-23). He said that the ECP was ready to hold free and fair election this year as it had achieved 90% implementation of its strategic plan.

Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) Senator Syed Ali Zafar emphasised that the general election must be held latest by October 2023 and that the ECP had a critical role in safeguarding the democratic process.

“It would be very surprising and shocking if a commission said we don’t want to hold elections,” the senator added, emphasising that the ECP’s constitutional obligation was to hold elections.

Pildat President Ahmed Bilal Mehboob gave an overview of the ‘Status of the Implementation of ECP’s 3rd Strategic Plan’. He highlighted the consistent efforts by the ECP to strategise and improve its processes over the past 15 years.

He also highlighted the government’s role in facilitating the ECP’s work and how it impacted the electoral process. “The ECP has exhibited a noteworthy dedication to strategic planning during the last 15 years,” Mehboob said.

He added that the successful execution of the ECP strategic plan required collaboration with a diverse variety of stakeholders, including political parties, civil society, the media, and the voters themselves.

Fawad Hasan Fawad, former principal secretary to the prime minister, highlighted that the ECP required the support and cooperation from the entire democratic society, citizens and parties in discharging its constitutional responsibility of holding credible elections.

Fawad also pointed out that the census data was an important component of the election process since it served as the foundation for the delimitation of the constituencies and their representation.

He said that the difficulties encountered by smaller provinces in accepting census findings pointed to the necessity of increased openness and engagement throughout the census process.

“To guarantee that the data obtained is accurate and approved by all stakeholders,” Fawad said, the ECP should work closely with the census office. “The results of the census are also critical in order to avoid interruption in the election calendar.”

Mohsin Shahnawaz Ranjha of the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) suggested that the ECP should call an APC regarding elections. Muhammad Abubakar of the Muttahida Qaumi Movement-Pakistan (MQM-P) said that the country hadn’t been able to conduct a single free and fair census.

Meanwhile, the information minister spoke with journalists at Lahore Press Club. She announced that a caretaker government would come after the end of government’s five-year constitutional period in August this year. “The PML-N is preparing for the election under the leadership of party Quaid Nawaz Sharif.”


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