Pakistan’s president says Punjab polls to be held on April 30
Constitutional crisis expected to be resolved after vote set from dates proposed by Election Commission.
Islamabad, Pakistan – Pakistani President Arif Alvi has announced that elections for the dissolved assembly of Punjab, the country’s most populous province, will be held on April 30.
The decision on Friday followed a proposal by the Election Commission of Pakistan to hold the polls between April 30 and May 7, according to a statement from the president’s office.
He announced the date after considering dates proposed by Election Commission of Pakistan. ECP had proposed poll date between 30 April to 7 May 2023 for holding general elections of Provincial Assembly of Punjab, and had further suggested to hold elections preferably on Sunday.
— The President of Pakistan (@PresOfPakistan) March 3, 2023
The announcement is expected to resolve a constitutional crisis after Alvi last week bypassed the Election Commission by unilaterally announcing April 9 as the election date in two provinces.
The Supreme Court stepped in on Wednesday and ruled in a split verdict that the elections for the provincial assemblies in Punjab and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa must be held within 90 days of their dissolution.
The top court also said the electoral watchdog must consult with the president to announce the date for the Punjab polls.
For Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, the judges instructed the province’s governor, Haji Ghulam Ali, to declare a date in consultation with the commission.
The assemblies in the two provinces were governed by the party of former Prime Minister Imran Khan, who was removed from his post in April through a parliamentary vote of no confidence.
Khan’s Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) party in January dissolved the assemblies in the two regions, which account for about 70 percent of the country’s population. The move was aimed at increasing pressure on the ruling alliance that replaced Khan’s government to hold early national elections, which are scheduled for October.
Alvi is a senior PTI leader.
Pakistan’s constitution states that if an assembly is dissolved, elections must be conducted within 90 days.
The country traditionally holds elections for the national assembly and provincial assemblies on the same day.
Muddasir Rizvi, an expert on electoral matters and governance, said the matter of setting an election date should have been resolved in the political arena without involving the courts.
“Now that it seems the elections will be conducted in provinces prior to general elections for the national assembly, political parties should sit together and initiate a broad-based dialogue on electoral reforms,” he told Al Jazeera.
Rizvi said the dialogue should include measures to insulate the national assembly elections from the influence of elected provincial governments in Punjab and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa.
“The issue right now is that having elected governments at the helm – and not caretaker governments – at the time of elections for the national assembly is the major reason for discomfort,” he said. “This is a pertinent issue and can only be addressed through a political dialogue.””