Feb 8 polls can’t be postponed: Pak election commission tells Senate

Islamabad: Pakistan’s election commission on Monday rejected a resolution passed by the Senate earlier this month seeking a delay in the February 8 general election, stating that all arrangements have been completed and it won’t be “advisable” to put off the planned polls.

On January 5, the upper House of Parliament passed a non-binding resolution seeking a delay in the general election, citing cold weather and security concerns, increasing the political uncertainty in the country.

The resolution, tabled by independent Senator Dilawar Khan, received overwhelming support in the Senate but was slammed as “unconstitutional” by major political parties. It was passed with only 14 lawmakers out of the Senate’s 100 members in attendance.

In the statement on Monday, the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) said that after reviewing the resolution, it reached the decision that polls cannot be postponed at this stage.

The ECP said it fixed the date of February 8 for general polls after consultation with President Dr Arif Alvi, while the election body had also issued instructions to the caretaker federal and provincial governments in this regard.

It also stated that the commission had completed all necessary preparations for general elections and polls had taken place during winters in previous years, adding that the ECP has also assured the Supreme Court regarding holding polls on the scheduled date.

The ECP said that it deliberated on the resolution and observed that caretaker federal and provincial governments had been issued directions for “beefing up security matrix” and providing a “congenial environment to the electorate” for peaceful elections.

The ECP said that it would not be “advisable” for the poll body to postpone general elections “at this stage”.

Meanwhile, lawmaker Khan wrote a letter to Senate Chairman Sadiq Sanjrani on Monday, saying that it was “disconcerting” that no “tangible steps” had been taken by the election commission to delay the general elections despite the passage of the resolution tabled by him in the Parliament’s upper House.

Asserting that the resolution “aptly reflected the collective aspirations of the House”, Dilawar said, “However, despite the Senate’s explicit urging and the subsequent dispatch of a copy of the resolution to the ECP, it is disconcerting that no tangible steps have been taken by the ECP to postpone the general elections scheduled for February 8.”

Dilawar said that as the mover of the resolution, he “firmly believed” that the concerns articulated in the motion must be promptly addressed.

“We must ascertain the progress made and ensure the postponement of the general elections scheduled for February 8, thereby facilitating the effective participation of people from all areas of Pakistan and across the entire political spectrum in the electioneering process,” Dilawar was quoted as saying by the report.

The non-binding resolution tabled by Dilawar was rejected by major political parties, which stated that further deferring the electoral process would be “unconstitutional”.

A counter resolution was submitted in the Senate by Senator Mushtaq Ahmed Khan, emphasising the need to adhere to “constitutional requirements” and ensure the timely conduct of the polls.

Meanwhile, the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) and Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) unanimously filed a requisition for the Senate session for timely polls last week.

Two similar resolutions seeking a delay in the general election were moved in Pakistan’s Senate within a gap of two days on Friday and Sunday. These resolutions cited cold weather and security concerns for the postponement of the elections.

A resolution passed by the Senate has no legal authority to delay elections, but such documents have moral force and can be used in litigation as evidence of elected representatives.

The campaigning has slowly begun to pick its pace in the cash-strapped country after the ECP over the weekend issued its final list of candidates.

Press Trust of India (PTI) is India’s premier news agency, having a reach as vast as the Indian Railways. It employs more than 400 journalists and 500 stringers to cover almost every district and small town in India.

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