Chief Election Commissioner Sikandar Sultan Raja on Thursday all but snubbed an invitation from President Arif Alvi seeking a consultative meeting on affixing the date for the upcoming general elections, noting that after recent amendments to the election law, such a meeting would be of 'scant consequence.'
Raja's letter came a day after Alvi had invited the chief of the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) for a meeting to affix a date for the elections within 90-days as stipulated under the Constitution.
The chief election commissioner on Thursday held a consultative meeting in the Election Commission on crafting a response to the President's invitation.
In its subsequent letter, Raja explained that the outgoing government had amended Section 57 of the Elections Act, 2017 on June 26, 2023.
He added that prior to the amendment, the process for affixing a date for elections was exactly as listed by President Alvi in his letter.
"However, after the amendment in Section 57, the Commission has been empowered to announce the date or dates for the General Elections," it said. Raja noted that this specifically applies where the President has dissolved the assemblies on the prime minister's advice.
"The President dissolves the National Assembly, in his discretion, as provided in Article 58(2) read with Article 48(5) of the Constitution, then he has to appoint a date for the General Elections. However, if the Assembly is dissolved on the advice of the Prime Minister or by afflux of time as provided in Article 58(1) of the Constitution, then the Commission understands and believes that the power to appoint a date or dates for elections rests exclusively with the Commission."
Raja said that he and the Commission believe "with the utmost respect that reliance placed on the provisions of the Constitution mentioned in your subject letter is not applicable in the present context."
The chief election commissioner further pointed out that the Commission has undertaken to conduct fresh delimitations following the recent publication of the census.
"In pursuance of the last preceding census officially published on August 7, 2023, the Commission decided to carry out fresh delimitation of constituencies as provided under section 17(2) of the Elections Act, 2017, to protect the fundamental rights of contesting candidates, political parties and electorates as guaranteed under Article 17(2) of the Constitution."
Raja reminded President Alvi that the Commission took its responsibility of holding the general elections very seriously and has also initiated the process of inviting major political parties to give their views on the electoral road map - a meeting was held with Alvi's parent party, the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) and the Jamiat Ulema-e-Islam Fazl on Thursday at the Commission.
"Notwithstanding the declared position of the Commission referred herein above, it is stated with all reverence that the Commission holds the office of President in high esteem, and it has always been an honour to meet and seek your kind guidance on national issues at an opportune time," Raja stated, adding that the Commission is of the "considered view that participation in the meeting would be of scant consequence".