Citing religious reasons: Govt asks ECP to reschedule presidential polls

Insists lawmakers may be busy with worship or Umra.

Azam Khan July 20, 2013
Many parliamentarians would either be busy with worship or aitekaaf, or would have left for performing Umra. PHOTO: REUTERS/FILE


The federal government has formally requested the Election Commission of Pakistan to reschedule the August 6 presidential election in light of the last ten days of Ramazan.

In a letter sent to the ECP on Friday, the Ministry of Law, Justice and Parliamentary Affairs asked the electoral body to change the date of the election, insisting that many parliamentarians would either be busy with worship or aitekaaf, or would have left for performing Umra.

The ministry suggested that if the ECP was constitutionally bound against extending the date of the presidential election beyond August 6 then the polls could be scheduled for an earlier date to allow lawmakers to both participate in the process and fulfill their religious obligations. Article 41 (4) of the Constitution states: “Election to the office of president shall be held not earlier than 60 days and not later than 30 days before the expiration of the term of the president in office.”

Although the Chief Election Commissioner is expected to decide the matter today (Saturday), it is unlikely the decision will come out in the PML-N government’s favour. The ECP, so far, had been unconvinced by the request and maintained it would be difficult to alter the schedule that had been issued. The commission’s secretariat has forwarded its summary in this regard to the CEC.

Earlier, the PML-N government directly approached the electoral authorities to issue the schedule for the presidential election.

Meanwhile, Leader of Opposition in the National Assembly Khursheed Shah has also advised the ECP against holding the presidential polls until after the results of by-elections are announced since 42 seats of the presidential electoral college are currently vacant.

Schedule for presidential polls

According to the schedule issued by the ECP, prospective candidates are supposed to submit their nomination papers on July 24. The candidates will be scrutinised on July 26 and they can withdraw their nominations on July 29. The final list of nominees would be issued on July 29 as well.

Polling for the presidential election would be held at the Parliament House in Islamabad and at the four provincial assemblies in Lahore‚ Karachi‚ Quetta and Peshawar between 10am and 3pm on August 6. Official results will be announced on August 7.

Islamabad High Court Chief Justice Muhammad Anwar Kasi has been appointed as the presiding officer for balloting at the Parliament House, while the chief justices of the respective high courts of the provinces have been named as presiding officers for the four provincial assemblies.

Electoral college

The Electoral College for the presidential election includes both houses of Parliament and the four provincial legislatures.

Each of the provincial assembly has a total of 65 votes – since the smallest legislature, the Balochistan Assembly, only has a total of 65 seats. This is so that each provincial assembly has an equal say in the presidential election.

The number of votes cast for each candidate in a certain provincial assembly will be divided by the total number of seats in that particular assembly and then multiplied by 65. The total number of seats includes the seats reserved for non-Muslims and women. Any fractions, obtained through this method, will be rounded off to the nearest whole.

It should be noted that this formula does not apply to the Balochistan Assembly – since it is the smallest provincial assembly – and Senate and National Assembly – where each legislator’s vote is counted as a single vote.

The number of votes in each provincial assembly, calculated in this manner, for each candidate will be tallied up and added to the votes cast by parliamentarians.

Published in The Express Tribune, June 19th, 2013.