ECP postpones Punjab Assembly polls to Oct 8
The Election Commission of Pakistan has postponed the general elections in Punjab that were scheduled to be held on April 30 in view of the recent spate of terrorist attacks in various parts of the country.
A notification was issued by Chief Election Commissioner Sikandar Sultan Raja in this regard. It said the commission had invoked Article 218(3) read with Section 58 and 8(c) of the Elections Act 2017.
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According to the notification, the Punjab Assembly elections will now be held on Oct 8, and a new schedule will be issued for the polls.
In the notification, the ECP states the following reasons for postponing the Punjab Assembly elections:
On Jan 3, two ISI officers were martyred in Khanewal.
Attack on police checkpost in Jhangi, Taunsa, Dera Ghazi Khan on Jan 13.
Attack on Makarwal police station in Mianwali on Jan 31.
IED blast in Jaffar Express at Sahiwal on Feb 16.
Approximately, 100 groups have entered Punjab for carrying out terrorist attacks.
Baloch sub-nationalists in Kacha areas of Rajanpur involved in subversive activities.
In the past two months, more than 213 incidents of terrorism prevented due to advanced intelligence-based information in Lahore, Sheikhupura, Sahiwal, Gujranwala, Dera Ghazi Khan and Rawalpindi.
Serious live terrorism threats to the Lahore, Mianwali, Bhakkar and DG Khan Police Lines.
Clean-up operations underway for eradication of terrorist activities, which may take at least four months to finalize, and police being heavily committed in this regard.
For deputation on election duty, the shortfall of police force in Punjab is 386,623, which can only be covered by deploying army and Rangers in static mode on all polling stations keeping in view the current law and order situation in highly charged and polarized political atmosphere.
On the other hand, former prime minister Imran Khan, who has been campaigning vociferously for early elections, and even launched his party’s campaign in this regard, calls the ECP’s announcement a violation of the Constitution.
He says he did not dissolve his governments in Punjab and KP “to allow a bunch of fascists to impose a reign of terror”.
Federal cabinet discussion on elections
The federal cabinet meeting presided over by Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif a short while ago had also discussed the elections in Punjab and KP.
The cabinet members noted that general elections should be held simultaneously across the country. It is not possible to hold elections in two provinces, they said.
The meeting observed that the security and financial situation was not suitable for elections. Plus, the government was also short of funds and discussions were also ongoing with the IMF on a bailout package.
The participants were informed about the decisions taken during the meeting of coalition parties. The policy statement of the interior minister in the joint session of parliament was also discussed, sources said.
The cabinet approved the government’s narrative presented in the joint session.
Joint session of parliament
Earlier, Interior Minister Rana Sanaullah had declared that if the elections to two provincial assemblies were held as per the orders of the Supreme Court, there will be instability, anarchy, and chaos.
Addressing the joint session on Wednesday evening, he said the April 30 date announced was also beyond the constitutional limit of 90 days.
“If the elections to all the assemblies are held simultaneously, it will ensure level-playing field for all,” the minister maintained.
On March 1, the Supreme Court had directed to hold elections in Punjab in 90 days, announcing its reserved verdict in a suo motu case on a delay in announcement of a date for polls in Punjab and KP.
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A divided court had reached a decision with a slim majority of 3-2. Justice Mansoor Ali Shah and Justice Jamal Khan Mandokhail objected to the decision.
The election commission was directed to take the necessary measures to conduct the polls in both provinces where the assemblies had been dissolved by the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI).
All government institutions were ordered to ensure cooperation with the ECP for holding polls in both provinces.