Islamabad, Pakistan – The provincial assembly in Pakistan’s northwestern Khyber Pakhtunkhwa has been dissolved, the second such move in less than a week as former Prime Minister Imran Khan pushes for early national elections.
The governor of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, Haji Ghulam Ali, on Wednesday signed a letter dissolving the provincial assembly “with immediate effect”.
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He was acting on a request by the provincial chief minister, Mahmood Khan, a senior member of Khan’s Pakistan Tahreek-e-Insaf (PTI) party.
On Saturday, the assembly in Pakistan’s most populous province, Punjab, was dissolved following an order by PTI chief Khan, who since his removal as prime minister last April, has been demanding immediate polls, otherwise scheduled in October this year.
Pakistan’s constitution says new elections must be held within three months of the dissolution of a provincial legislature if the house fails in setting up an interim government.
The South Asian nation historically conducts federal and provincial elections simultaneously, but the constitution allows for separate poll dates as well.
Khan’s PTI hopes the dissolution of two of the country’s four assemblies will force Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif’s government to announce immediate general elections.
“We will return with two-thirds majority not just in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa but all of Pakistan, and form a government on the basis of our performance,” provincial chief minister Khan said in a video message on Tuesday after he wrote to the governor to dissolve the assembly.
PTI leader Musarrat Jamshed Cheema told Al Jazeera it is imperative that the government thinks beyond its “self-interests” and goes into early elections.
“You will have more than 70 percent of Pakistan contesting the provincial elections after the dissolution of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and Punjab assemblies. Why are they reluctant to hold general elections? Not only will the delay damage them politically, it is harming Pakistan’s situation as well,” she said.
Saif Ali Khan, lawyer and former adviser to Mahmood Khan, said the PTI decided to dissolve the assemblies to push the country into general elections.
“The ruling alliance is still trying to sabotage our efforts as they do not want to hold early elections. We will fight all their tactics on political and legal forums,” he told Al Jazeera.
Lahore-based political analyst Benazir Shah said Imran Khan, by pushing for immediate polls, is trying to take advantage of his rising popularity among the people.
“If Khan can form governments in both the provinces, and Punjab in particular, he will get a huge advantage in the next general election,” she told Al Jazeera.
Shah said the ruling alliance does not have many options to manoeuvre the political crisis and could be forced to play on Khan’s terms.
“In the next three months, they would have to hurriedly put together an election campaign, mobilise their voters and craft an effective election narrative to counter Khan. None of this will be easy for the ruling coalition’s parties, which have recently taken back-to-back electoral losses and are seen as being hand-in-glove with the military,” she said.
PTI’s lawyer Khan said the ruling alliance does not have the moral credibility to lead the country, which is already facing a dire economic crisis, made worse by last year’s catastrophic floods.
“If you’re driving a bus and see the driver as incompetent, you do not wait for the bus to crash or get into an accident. You try and change the driver at the earliest. This is what we want for Pakistan,” he told Al Jazeera.
“We cannot wait for few more months which could take us to a point of no return. Let the public decide who should have the mandate to make difficult decisions.”