Pakistan election body to draw new boundaries as polls likely to be delayed

The election regulatory body said new constituencies would be finalised by December 14, state television PTV reported.

Pakistan's prime minister-elect Shehbaz Sharif speaks after winning a parliamentary vote to elect a new prime minister, at the national assembly, in Islamabad
Former Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif's government was dissolved on August 9 [File: Press Information Department (PID) via Reuters]

The Pakistan Election Commission has announced that it will draw new boundaries for hundreds of constituencies prior to the upcoming elections, making it almost certain that polls will be delayed.

On Thursday, the election regulatory body said new constituencies would be finalised by December 14, state television PTV reported.

The EC said it will set an election date after the new boundaries have been drawn.

According to the constitution of Pakistan, elections must be held within 60 days after national and provincial assemblies have been dissolved after completing their full term, or within 90 days if the dissolution takes place earlier.

Former Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif’s government was dissolved on August 9 – a few days before it completed its full term – meaning elections should be held in November at the latest.

Pakistan has faced political turmoil since then-Prime Minister Khan lost a parliamentary vote of no confidence in April last year.

The former cricket star, who leads the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) party,  is currently in prison on misdeclaration of assets charges, which he has repeatedly denied.

The likely delay of the general election came after the former government led by Sharif refused to hold elections in Punjab and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa provinces when their respective assemblies were dissolved earlier this year, despite an order from the country’s Supreme Court.

In January, the PTI party dissolved the two assemblies, where they were the governing party, in a bid to force a snap general election.

New cabinet sworn in

Separately on Thursday, Pakistan swore in a caretaker cabinet under interim Prime Minister Anwaar-ul-Haq Kakar in Islamabad.

The caretaker government says its top priority is economic stabilisation, with the $350 billion economy on a narrow recovery path after sealing a $3bn bailout deal with the International Monetary Fund to avert a sovereign debt default.

Economic reforms implemented so far have led to historic levels of inflation and high interest rates, however.

Kakar himself was sworn in on Monday after President Arif Alvi dissolved parliament last week on the advice of outgoing Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif.

Kakar appointed the new cabinet on Thursday, which was later sworn in by Alvi.

Former central bank chief Shamshad Akhtar was appointed finance minister, and Pakistan’s former ambassador to the United States, Jalil Abbas Jilani, was named foreign minister, the new information minister, Murtaza Solangi, said.

Other names in the cabinet included former provincial minister Sarfaraz Bugti as interior minister and Mishaal Malik, the wife of jailed Kashmiri leader Yaseen Malik, as minister for human rights.

Source: Al Jazeera and news agencies