President Dr Arif Alvi on Wednesday wrote to Chief Election Commissioner Sikandar Sultan Raja, asking him to issue a date for general elections. Alvi also proposed November 6, 2023, as the date for elections and said that the commissioner could consult the superior judiciary on the matter since several connected issues remain subjudice.
In the letter, Dr Alvi has finally conceded that announcing a date for the elections is the jurisdiction of the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) and not the President.
The letter, sent on Wednesday, noted that after the National Assembly was dissolved on the advice of the prime minister on August 9, and the provincial assemblies were all dissolved on the advice of the respective chief ministers, elections must be held within 90 days.
صدر مملکت ڈاکٹر عارف علوی کا چيف الیکشن کمشنر ، سکندر سلطان راجہ، کے نام خط— The President of Pakistan (@PresOfPakistan) September 13, 2023
صدر مملکت نے 9 اگست کو وزیراعظم کے مشورے پر قومی اسمبلی کو تحلیل کیا، صدر مملکت pic.twitter.com/5W88oKxX62
"Article 48(5) of the Constitution empowers and mandates the President "to appoint a date not later than 90 days from the date of the dissolution, for the holding of a general election to the Assembly," the letter read.
In terms of Article 48(5), the letter added, "General elections to the National Assembly should be held by the eighty-ninth day of the date of dissolution of the National Assembly, i.e. Monday 6th Day of November 2023".
Dr Alvi noted that the ECP had already communicated in their letter that they were bound under Article 51(5) of the Constitution and Section 17 of the Elections Act, 2017, to conduct fresh delimitations after the census results were published on August 7, 2023.
The President added that the federal law ministry and the four provinces were in unison in their view that "that announcement of election date is mandate of the Election Commission of Pakistan."
He added there was a consensus amongst the provinces and the federal government that general elections for the national and provincial assemblies must be held on the same day to avoid incurring unnecessary expenses.
"It is the responsibility of the Election Commission of Pakistan to abide by all the constitutional and legal steps stipulated under Articles 51, 218, 219, 220 and the Elections Act, 2017 for organising and conducting free and fair elections," Dr Alvi said and asked them to consult with provincial governments and political parties under the relevant provisions of the Constitution, and in view that some of these matters are already subjudice, may seek guidance from the superior judiciary for "announcement of a single date for general election to the National and Provincial Assemblies."
The letter brings to an end a saga that has lasted nearly a month where Dr Alvi first asked CEC Raja to visit him for consultations on finalising a date for the elections and subsequently being snubbed by the CEC, who said that after recent changes in the law, the meeting would be of "scant consequences" since announcing a date for the elections was now the mandate of the ECP.
Dr Alvi had then embarked on a flurry of consultations, including two rounds of talks with the federal caretaker law minister.
There were rumours that during this, a crucial meeting was also held between Dr Alvi and the military and intelligence top brass in the President's House while a message was also reportedly sent via Muhammad Ali Durrani.