EXCLUSIVE: National Assembly Will Be Dissolved On August 10

EXCLUSIVE: National Assembly Will Be Dissolved On August 10
The National Assembly is likely to be dissolved on August 10, followed by the federal cabinet led by Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif, days before the assembly completes its constitutional term, The Friday Times has learnt.

It is pertinent to mention that the constitutional term of the current National Assembly (as well as the provincial assemblies in Sindh and Balochistan) is scheduled to end on August 13.

According to the Constitution, if the assembly completes its tenure prior to being dissolved, then elections for a new assembly have to take place within 60 days. However, if the assembly is dissolved prematurely before the assembly completes its tenure ends, elections can be delayed by 90-120 days.

"To gain more time before the [general] elections are finally held in the country, it has been decided by those in power corridors of Islamabad that the assembly will be dissolved on August 10," claimed a source who frequents the power corridors of the country.

The source added that a consensus between the ruling coalition on the date of dissolution of the assembly had been reached. He did not say whether this consensus was reached at the recent conclave in Dubai or prior to that.

Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) Senator Dr Afnan Ullah Khan told The Friday Times that dissolving the assemblies on August 10 or before August 13 is an option currently being considered by the party. However, a final decision on the matter is likely to be taken by party supremo Nawaz Sharif and Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif in consultation with their coalition partners.

Zardari wants elections in November

Multiple insiders from the Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP), with whom The Friday Times spoke, said that former president and PPP Co-Chairman Asif Ali Zardari is in favour of holding general elections in November this year.

"Asif Ali Zardari is not in favour of delaying elections," a former MNA who belongs to central Punjab told The Friday Times. The former lawmaker declined to be named for this report.

"He wants elections to take place this year," he said.

The former lawmaker said that the party will focus on the revival of the economy in their electoral campaign and manifesto.

No Charter of Democracy?

In the 2013 elections, there were reports of a Charter of Democracy between the PPP and the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N), and the former allowed the latter some leeway in the elections even though they competed on and won some seats in Punjab. This was also the case, but to a lesser degree, in the 2018 elections but by then, there was another factor impacting elections.

To give the party the best chance of success in the next elections, the former MNA said Zardari has been focusing on reviving the PPP in Punjab.

For this purpose, he said that the former president is making utmost efforts to win back electables who had left the PPP before the 2018 elections.

Moreover, he has been wooing the business community, which has always been considered a stronghold of the PML-N and its politics.

Nawaz also in favour of elections this year

Meanwhile, in the green camp, sources privy to developments confirmed to The Friday Times that former prime minister and PML-N supremo Nawaz Sharif has hinted he is amenable to holding elections this year.

To this extent, it appears that both the PPP and the PML-N are on the same page.


Shehbaz initially wanted to extend the term of NA by six months'

The only question then remains what do those currently hold power want?

Sources who belong to the inner circle of Shehbaz Sharif claim that the former Punjab chief minister initially wanted to extend the term of the current National Assembly by six months so that his government could end its tenure at a moment when it had recouped some of the political capital it lost while stabilizing the economy, winning back the favour of the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and dealing with the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI).

Ultimately, sources say he was convinced to hold elections this year by his elder brother and other coalition partners.

This, sources say, led to a compromise whereby the assemblies would be dissolved ahead of completing their natural term on August 10, and that election would be held later this year.

Prerequisite for general elections

Apart from reaching the one-page on when assemblies must be dissolved and when the elections would be held, sources maintain that the country's powerful civil and military players at the helm of affairs have decided that elections will only be held once Imran Khan has been dealt with, whether this happens through a court martial or is 'fixed' any other way.

In this context, some sources have suggested that the elections may take place after March next year, which seems to be a more realistic date.

However, some sources from powerful corridors also claim that the picture of when elections will be held will become clear after September once incumbent Chief Justice of Pakistan (CJP) Umar Ata Bandial retires and Justice Qazi Faez Isa takes over as the new chief justice.

Power sharing formula agreed between PPP, PML-N

Political insiders from both the PPP and PML-N have told The Friday Times that both parties will contest elections against each other rather than agree on a careful meandering to avoid direct competition as seen in the past.

Moreover, instead of depending on a predetermined formula, both parties have decided to let the gauntlet of elections decide from which party would the prime minister be elected.

In this regard, the party which secures a greater number of seats in the National Assembly would naturally be in a position to elect a prime minister from their party. And if the chips fall the right way, their preferred candidate could become the next prime minister.

It has been further decided that the party which secures the second most seats in the elections will get their candidate elected as the President.

"This decision was reached during the Dubai meeting between the leadership of both parties," a federal minister told The Friday Times.

PMLN Senator Dr Afnan Ullah Khan affirmed to TFT that the option was under consideration to dissolve the National Assembly before August 13, or on August 10, but clarified that "the final decision will be reached by party Supremo Mian Nawaz Sharif and Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif in consultation with coalition partners".

The writer is a senior correspondent at The Friday Times with a focus on politics, economy and militancy.