Islamabad, Pakistan – Pakistan’s parliament has been dissolved to prepare for a national election without former Prime Minister Imran Khan, who has been jailed and barred from politics for five years.
President Arif Alvi ordered the National Assembly, the lower house of parliament, dissolved late on Wednesday, on Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif’s advice.
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The dissolution marks the end of a chaotic tenure which began five years ago with Khan at the helm.
Sharif, who assumed power in April 2022 after Khan lost a no-confidence vote in parliament, on Tuesday said he had asked President Alvi to dissolve the assembly three days before the schedule.
“Tomorrow [Wednesday], my government completes its term and after meeting constitutional norms, we will hand over the reins to the interim set-up,” he said during an event at the headquarters of the country’s powerful army.
The dissolution allows the interim government, which is still to be set up, to oversee the next general elections within 90 days, that is by November.
According to Pakistan’s constitution, elections should be held within 60 days if a legislative assembly is dissolved on the scheduled day, and within 90 days if it is done earlier than that.
However, the likelihood of elections being held by November is slim.
Last week, the government approved the results of a digital census in Pakistan, which put the country’s population at 241 million, up from 207 million according to the census conducted in 2017.
Pakistani law mandates that elections can take place only according to constituency delimitations which will be drawn based on the latest census figures.
The Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) says it requires at least four months to redraw the constituencies, making it uncertain if the polls will be held on time.
Speaking to a private news channel on Tuesday, Rana Sanaullah, the interior minister, also said there was no chance of holding elections in 2023.
“Very straightforward answer: no,” Sanaullah said when he was asked about the chances of polls this year.
No clarity on caretaker gov’t
Meanwhile, the outgoing government is yet to finalise the interim cabinet and the caretaker prime minister, who should be announced within three days of the dissolution of the National Assembly.
Among the top contenders is Hafeez Shaikh, a two-time finance minister who last served under Khan.
Sanaullah, in another interview to a news channel earlier this week, said a retired Supreme Court judge’s name is also in the running.
“However, the name of the interim prime minister will be decided in the next two days,” he said on Monday.
Sharif’s 15-month tenure was marked by political chaos, a precarious economy, and a worsening security situation.
Catastrophic floods last year killed nearly 1,800 people and caused a loss of more than $30bn. Pakistan has still not recovered from the calamity.
Meanwhile, the country’s economy was on the brink of default before it managed a last-minute $3bn bailout from the International Monetary Fund.
Sharif’s coalition rule also saw a severe crackdown on Khan and his Pakistan Tahreek-e-Insaf (PTI) party following their demands to hold immediate elections and scathing attacks on the powerful military.
On Sunday, Khan was sentenced to three years in prison over false declaration of assets in his election papers.
Two days later, the election body barred him from politics for five years.