ISLAMABAD - The Election Commission of Pakistan [ECP] yesterday conveyed to President Arif Alvi that the country’s top election body is empowered to fix the schedule of general elections.
In response to the President’s letter, Chief Election Commissioner (CEC) Sikandar Sultan Raja argued that the meeting with the President over the schedule of polls would be of “scant importance” after amendments in the election law.
President Arif Alvi in his letter to the CEC the other day had asked to hold a meeting with him as he (president) was obliged to appoint a date not later than 90 days from the date of dissolution of the National Assembly.
The Chief Election Commissioner, in his response through a letter said that participating in such a meeting would be of “scant importance” after changes to the election law. In the letter addressed to the president, the chief of electoral watchdog said it was imperative to point out that Section-57 of the Elections Act had been amended due to an act of Parliament, which had empowered the Commission to “announce the date or dates for the general elections”.
“Where the president dissolves the National Assembly, in his discretion, as provided in Article 58(2) read with Article 48(5) of the Constitution then he has to appoint a date for the general elections. “If the assembly is dissolved on the advice of the prime minister or by afflux of time as provided in Article 58(1) of the Constitution, then the commission [ECP] understands and believes that the power to appoint a date or dates for elections rests exclusively with the Commission,” the letter reads.
It added, “The commission believes with utmost respect that the reliance placed on the provisions of the Constitution mentioned on your subject letter are not applicable in this context.”
The CEC also said that the delimitation of constituencies, after the approval of the digital census, was one of the foundational legal steps towards holding elections in the country.
He said that the ECP was taking its responsibility of holding general elections in the country very seriously and had also invited major political parties to give their views on the electoral map.
“Notwithstanding the declared position of the Commission referred herein above. it is stated with all reverence that the Commission holds the office of the president in high esteem and it has always been an honour to meet and seek your kind guidance on national issues at an opportune time.
“In view of the above, the Commission is of the considered view that participation in the meeting would be of scant consequence,” he conveyed in the letter to the President.
It may be noted here that the President a couple of months before had unilaterally announced April 9 as the date for elections to the Punjab and KPK assemblies.
Soon after receiving the letter from the CEC, President Arif Alvi approached the Federal Law Ministry for legal and constitutional opinion.
An official communiqué from the Presidency said President Alvi wrote to the secretary of the Law Ministry and sought his opinion on the CEC letter.
Sources in the Law Ministry confirmed that a letter by the President has been received and the Ministry is expected to give a reply to the President within two days after consulting its legal team.