President can announce polls date at ‘any time’: sources

If situation persists, country may find itself in the throes of another constitutional crisis, insiders say

News Desk September 11, 2023
President Dr Arif Alvi signing the dissolution of the National Assembly in terms of Article 58(1) of the Constitution of Pakistan, 1973, in Lahore on Wednesday, August 9, 2023. PHOTO: EXPRESS.

President Dr Arif Alvi can announce the date for the general elections at “any time”, raising concerns of another constitutional crisis in the country, insiders told Express News on Monday.

Alvi's five-year tenure as the country's president concluded on Friday following which a cloud of uncertainty is hanging over whether how he will continue in his role. As per the Constitution, Alvi can remain the president until the election of a new head of state.

With the clock ticking, the observers await the final move of the president who has occasionally tried to use his office to comment on political events and express his intentions to mediate in political conflict as well as press for elections within the constitutional deadline.

Sources revealed that the president is "hell bent" upon announcing the date of polls. They added that if the situation persists, the country may find itself in the throes of another constitutional crisis.

Read: President should take responsibility for his actions: law ministry

The insiders said that Alvi's legal team as well as the Attorney General for Pakistan have explicitly informed him that following amendments to the Election Act, he no longer has the authority to announce election dates.

President, law minister hold consultation on elections

Earlier in the day, the Caretaker Federal Minister for Law and Justice Ahmed Irfan Aslam called on the president. In the meeting, they held a consultation on the general elections in the country, a President House statement said.

The meeting between the government official and the president was part of the ongoing consultation regarding the general polls. “The continuation of the consultation process with good intentions will prove to be productive for the democracy in the country,” the president remarked.

PTI urges president to announce election date

Meanwhile, the former ruling party Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI), in a letter, has urged the president to announce the election date as soon as possible.

“Under Article 48(5) of the Constitution of the Islamic Republic of Pakistan, 1973, when the President dissolves the National Assembly, he is to appoint a date not later than 90 days from the date of dissolution for holding of general elections to the Assembly,” PTI Secretary Omar Ayub Khan stated in the letter.

Also read: President Alvi’s term nears completion

“This Article has also been interpreted in two judgements of the Hon’ble Supreme Court of Pakistan namely Mohammad Sibtain Khan and others Vs. Election Commission of Pakistan and Suo Motu regarding Holding of General Elections to the Provincial Assemblies of Punjab and KPK in which also it has been decided that when the President dissolves the National Assembly then the date for holding of general elections to the Assembly has also to be given by the President. The giving of the date is hence a Constitutional obligation and mandate of the President of Pakistan.”

The letter said that since the National Assembly was dissolved by the president on August 9, 2023 on the advice of the prime minister, the date for holding of general elections to the National Assembly has to be given by the president too in accordance with the Constitution and the law as well as the judgements of the Supreme Court.

“We may mention here that under Section 57 of the Elections Act, 2017, Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) has been given the right to appoint the date for elections but the section itself states that this is subject to the Constitution. As you are well aware, in any case, it is an established principle that no law can override the Constitution,” it added.

Accordingly, it stated, the right of the ECP to fix a date for elections under the Election Act 2017 is subject to Article 48(5) of the Constitution, hence, when the National Assembly is dissolved by the president, it is the president alone who can fix the date.

PML-N demands Alvi to vacate Aiwan-e-Sadr

Meanwhile, Maryam Aurangzeb, the central information secretary of Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N), has urged the president to vacate the Aiwan-e-Sadr immediately following the completion of his term.

“Pack your bags and move to PTI secretariat because your desire is not just economic and political turmoil but also a constitutional crises in the country,” she added.

Party’s deputy secretary general Attaullah Tarar stated that whenever the country shows signs of progress, PTI tries to destabilise it.

It is pertinent to note that in the event that Alvi steps down, Senate Chairman Sadiq Sanjrani will temporarily assume the role of acting president until a new president is elected following the next general election.

However, the election of a new president requires the formation of the National Assembly and the four provincial assemblies, which can only occur after the upcoming general elections.

The Electoral College, at present, is incomplete because the Punjab and Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa assemblies do not exist yet.

Arif Alvi was elected as the President of Pakistan on September 4, 2018, and took the oath of office as the president of the Islamic Republic of Pakistan on September 9, 2018.


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