Concerns are mounting over the Election Commission of Pakistan’s (ECP) hesitation to provide a definitive date for the upcoming general elections. An anonymous senior ECP official informed Dawn that determining a specific date is a challenge. According to Section 57 of the Elections Act, declaring a polling date initiates an intricate electoral process involving nomination submissions, scrutiny, and decisions on approvals. Each stage has predetermined timelines.
Meanwhile, civil society groups, including PATTAN and Coalition38, have expressed frustration over the ECP’s vague statements on the election timeline. These organizations assert that the ECP’s ambiguity breaches Article 48(5a) of the Constitution, which mandates the announcement of an election date within 90 days after an assembly’s dissolution. Past decisions by the ECP, such as the postponement of certain assembly and local government elections, further diminish its credibility.
Controversy Surrounding the Census and Delimitation
Civil society coalitions voice grave reservations regarding the ECP’s redrawing constituencies based on a biased and politicized census. Their statement highlighted irregularities in census data collection and significant alterations in preliminary results. Despite these criticisms, an ECP representative defended the delimitation move, emphasizing its alignment with legal and constitutional provisions. The official also highlighted the logistical challenges of organizing elections before November 7. Yet, if the Supreme Court intervenes, the ECP might resort to previous election delimitation data.
PATTAN and Coalition38 have urged the Supreme Court to direct the ECP to adhere to Article 48(5a). Their statement concludes by emphasizing the necessity for free, transparent, and unbiased elections, advocating for releasing all political detainees before the electoral process.