ECP forgoes same-day electoral process

The Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) sent letters to the provincial governors of Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa and Punjab with proposed dates for elections of the provincial assemblies days after caretaker governments in the provinces were installed to facilitate the upcoming polls following the dissolution of assemblies.

In separate letters to the governors, the electoral watchdog proposed April 9 to 13 for the elections of the Punjab Assembly and April 15 to 17 for the K-P Assembly and asked the respective governors to select a date within the given timeline.

The letters stated that the governor should finalize the date between April 15 and 17 in K-P and inform the authorities. Similarly, the commission is bound to conduct elections in Punjab before April 13.

The watchdog said the election date must not exceed April 13.

The letters, the copies of which are available with The Express Tribune, underscored the body’s responsibility to hold general elections within 90 days after the dissolution of the assemblies.

It maintained that as per Article 105(3)(a) of the Constitution, the governor is required to fix a date, no later than ninety days from the date of dissolution for holding general elections to the assembly.

It further stated that under Sub Section (1) of Section 57 of the Elections Act, 2017, consultation with the ECP was required for the fixation of the poll date.

The letters cited Article 224 which states that “When the National Assembly or a provincial assembly is dissolved, a general election to the assembly shall be held within a period of ninety days after the dissolution, and the results of the election shall be declared not later than fourteen days after the conclusion of the polls”.

“Likewise, for completion of all activities mentioned in the election programme as per section 57 (2) of the Elections Act, 2017 minimum of 54 days will be required,” the ECP said in its letter.

It urged the government to finalise the date of the election in light of the suggestion mooted by the electoral watchdog.

Earlier, a meeting was called under Chief Election Commissioner (CEC) Sikandar Sultan Raja on the issue of general elections and by-elections in Punjab and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa. The dates were announced during the meeting.

During the election, 53,000 polling stations will be established in Punjab and 17,000 in KP and up to 7 lakh polling staff will be required. Army and Rangers personnel will also be deployed.

Estimates of expenses in general and by-elections have also been made, however, expenses of around Rs15 billion will be incurred in both provinces and by-elections.

ECP seeks additional Rs14b

Meanwhile, in a related development, the ECP sought Rs14 billion additional grant for meeting the general election’s expenses.

In a letter to the finance ministry, the body said an extra amount will be needed for the general election in addition to by-elections on the vacant seats of the National Assembly, Punjab and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa.

It said the cost of the general election has been increased from Rs47 billion to Rs61 billion and stressed that an amount of Rs25bn out of Rs47bn was required on an immediate basis.

The electoral watchdog has already received Rs5bn and is seeking Rs20bn forthwith.

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