Chief Election Commissioner (CEC) Sikandar Sultan Raja addressed a letter from President Arif Alvi concerning the scheduling of a general election date, indicating that such discussions now have “scant importance” due to recent legislative changes.
President Alvi, referring to Article 244 of the Constitution, expressed in his letter that he is mandated to ensure elections occur within 90 days following a premature dissolution of the National Assembly. He referenced the recent dissolution of the assembly on August 9, based on the prime minister’s advice. Additionally, he highlighted clause 5 of Article 48, which outlines the president’s duties in such scenarios.
Shift in Election Law
The dynamics have now altered. Recent modifications to election laws have endowed the CEC with the authority to set the election date, bypassing the need for presidential input. The president had previously, on February 20, announced April 9 as the election date for the Punjab and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa assemblies after their premature dissolution. This move was made following the ECP’s refusal of the president’s earlier consultation invitation regarding the election dates.
CEC’s Current Position
In his response, CEC Raja emphasized the recent amendments to Section 57 of the Elections Act, which now empowers the commission to determine election dates. Raja clarified that while the president does have the authority to set an election date following a discretionary dissolution of the National Assembly if the assembly is dissolved upon the prime minister’s advice or due to the passage of time, the commission retains exclusive rights to determine the election date. He further explained that the ECP is dedicated to holding general elections and has been discussing the electoral map with major political factions. Nonetheless, Raja respectfully noted that a meeting regarding the subject might not yield significant results given the current legal framework.