President Asif Ali Zaradri’s successor will be picked on July 30 instead of August 6. The Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) announced a revised schedule for the presidential election in compliance with a Supreme Court order on Wednesday.
According to the new schedule, the candidates can withdraw their nomination papers on July 27. The ECP will publish the list of validly nominated candidates on July 27 at 5pm. Balloting will be held on July 30 from 10am to 3pm at the Parliament House in Islamabad and at the buildings of four provincial assemblies.
Hours earlier a three-judge bench of the apex court – headed by Chief Justice Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhry – ordered the ECP to revise the presidential election schedule. The bench passed the order on a petition filed by PML-N Senator Raja Zafarul Haq. The ruling party approached the court after the ECP turned down its request for rescheduling the elections.
“… we are of the opinion that … it is the duty of the ECP to facilitate all the voters and electors, enabling them to exercise their right of franchise for the election,” the bench noted in its written order.
Earlier ECP’s Additional Secretary Sher Afghan told the bench that the commission required three days between the withdrawal of nominations and balloting to complete arrangements for the election. “Whatever order is passed by the court while keeping this requirement in view will be complied with in letter and spirit,” he added.
Citing the ECP as respondent in his petition, Senator Haq argued that the last 10 days of Ramazan normally involve extensive spiritual and religious activity. Several legislators might either be in Aitekaf (religious retreat in mosques) or in Saudi Arabia during this period. August 6 falls on one of the last three days of Ramazan, probably on 27th. This would be close to Eidul Fitr and many parliamentarians might proceed to their hometowns by then, he argued.
“The Constitution guarantees that the Muslims shall be enabled to order their lives in the individual and collective spheres in accordance with the teachings and requirements of Islam as set out in the Holy Quran and Sunnah,” the petitioner said.
“If the presidential elections are held on August 6, the fundamental rights of the parliamentarians/legislators shall be infringed upon as they will not be able to participate in the presidential elections in view of their engagements towards spiritual and religious plans in the last 10 days of the holy month.”
Published in The Express Tribune, July 25th, 2013.