Pakistan’s election commission on Tuesday said it will fulfil its responsibility to hold general elections in the country if required.
Pakistan’s embattled Prime Minister Imran Khan stunned the Opposition parties on Sunday by recommending snap elections, after a no-confidence motion against him was dismissed by the deputy speaker of the National Assembly. Khan then got Pakistan President Arif Alvi to dissolve the 342-member National Assembly before its term ended in August 2023.
“Election Commission will fulfil its responsibility under the Constitution and the law. The meeting will review the preparation in the event of general elections,” the spokesperson of the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP), said, even as the Supreme Court is hearing a case against the rejection of the no-trust vote against prime minister Khan.
“There is no truth in the reports that the next general elections cannot be held in three months,” the Express Tribune newspaper quoted the ECP spokesperson as saying.
Earlier in a tweet, the commission stated that “It is necessary to clarify that the Election Commission of Pakistan has not issued any statement regarding the election.” The ECP’s clarification came following media reports stating that the commission would not be able to conduct general elections in three months due to some procedural and legal challenges.
The Dawn newspaper, quoting a senior official of the ECP said that due to fresh delimitation of constituencies, particularly in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa where the number of seats was increased under the 26th Amendment, and bringing district-and constituency-wise electoral rolls in conformity were the major challenges, the preparations for the general elections would require some six months.
“Delimitation is a time-consuming exercise where the law provides for one month’s time just to invite objections,” the report said quoting the official.
The official said procurement of election material, arrangement for ballot papers and appointment and training of polling staff were among the other inherent challenges.
Meanwhile, expressing grave concern over the recent political developments and ensuing constitutional crisis, the Free and Fair Election Network (Fafen), an independent non-government body, has identified multiple constitutional, legal and operational challenges to the conduct of an early election.
“While the constitutionality of the measures leading to the dissolution of the National Assembly will be decided by the Supreme Court, Fafen hopes for a prompt decision by the apex court, which rightly took up the matter suo moto, as any delay will continue to accrue collateral issues arising out of the constitutional deadlock.
“Public confusion and political divisions that have already arisen as a result can potentially translate into violent expression. Political parties have a great responsibility to manage their workers and make sure that political disagreements do not turn into violence, especially ahead of an early election,” Fafen said in a statement issued on Monday.
According to the organisation, an early election may not be a smooth process in view of several constitutional and legal complications.
“The critical factor for the legitimacy of any election will be the completion of the Election Commission,” it said, pointing out that the ECP members from Punjab and KP were yet to be appointed.
Fafen said it had always urged the need for electoral reforms through political consensus as majoritarian changes to the election law always led to challenges to the legitimacy of the election outcome and political stability, the report said.