President Dr Arif Alvi on Monday announced April 9 as the date for holding general elections for the Punjab and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa assemblies, according to a press release issued by the President’s Secretariat’s Press Wing.
The elections are to take place in both provinces after previous PTI governments had dissolved their assemblies before the expiry of their five-year mandated term on the orders of party chairman Imran Khan.
The president’s unilateral announcement of the election date came after his invitation for consultations on dates for elections was turned down by the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP).
Quoting a letter sent by President Alvi to the Chief Election Commissioner (CEC) Sikander Sultan Raja, the statement said the president had made the decision under Section 57(1) (notification of election programme) of the Elections Act, 2017 and was asking the CEC to issue the election programme under Section 57(2) of the same Act.
Saying he was “under oath to preserve, protect and defend the Constitution” under its Article 42 (oath of president), he defended his announcement by adding that there was “no impediment in invoking the power and authority vested in him” as there was “no restraining order from any of the judicial fora”.
He said he had “felt it necessary to perform his constitutional and statutory duty to announce the date of elections to avoid the infringement and breach of the Constitution and law i.e. holding of elections not later than ninety days”.
President Alvi criticised Punjab Governor Balighur Rehman and KP Governor Haji Ghulam Ali for “not performing their constitutional duties for appointing a date not later than ninety days from the date of dissolution” of the provincial assemblies.
He also lambasted the ECP for “not fulfilling its constitutional obligation for holding polls” of the assemblies concerned.
Referring to an Urdu proverb, “Pehlay aap. Nahi, pehlay aap” [You first. No, you first], he said that “both the constitutional offices are placing the ball in each other’s court […] thus, resulting in delay and creating a serious danger that constitutional provisions may be violated”.
President Alvi pointed out that the ECP had already indicated the possible dates for the elections in its various communications to the constitutional functionaries showing its own responsibility of holding the elections within ninety days.
Referring to the recent back-and-forth communications between the ECP and himself, he said he had initiated a “serious consultation process” with the ECP for the date announcement but the electoral body had replied that the commission “could not participate in a meeting on the subject matter” with the president.