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Pakistan: Onward to Elections

Updated: Jul 17


General elections in Pakistan are to be held less than 60 days after the dissolution of the National Assembly, which is set to dissolve by 14 August 2023 upon completing its five year term which implies that Pakistan will have a new government by end October if the election process goes through smoothly.

There is an option where the provincial assemblies are dissolved earlier thereby giving the Election Commission of Pakistan 90 days window to hold the elections.


As per the Dawn News, Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif on July 16 said that his government would hand over the power to an interim setup before the completion of its tenure next month which may imply a dissolution thus providing a window of 90 days to the Election Commission for holding the polls. Some clarity on the issue will emerge only after the announcement is actually made.


Which option is exercised now remains to be seen?


Political Developments


On the political front political battle lines are now being drawn in Pakistan as expectations are of dissolution of the present government under the PMLN by August 14th day after which the process of elections for the National Assembly and provincial assemblies will commence.


The critical issue that is expected to be discussed between the allies of the ruling alliance is that of setting up a caretaker government which will run the elections in the country. Consensus is necessary between the alliance partners as well as the main opposition leadership that is the key defector from Pakistan Tehreek Insaaf [PTI] who may not have too much of a say in this overall process. Towards this end Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif met PPP co-chairperson Asif Ali Zardari and Istehkam-i-Pakistan Party (IPP) patron-in-chief Jahangir Khan Tareen in Lahore on July 15 as reported by the News.


On the other hand, PTI chief Imran Khan has very clearly stated that he will launch his party even if it is banned due to its involvement in the May 09 rioting under a different name and participate in the polls. Questioned about the impact of a possible ban on his electoral future by Nikkei Asia, Imran told the outlet: “If they remove the party then we will form a party with a new name and still win the elections.” The Nikkei Asia report further quoted him as saying that “even if they disqualify me and throw me in jail, the party will still win”.

The ruling alliance as well as the Pakistan army which has a defining say in some of these issues are unlikely to allow Imran Khan to participate in the polls given his popularity amongst the masses.


PML-N Punjab President and Interior Minister Rana Sanaullah indicated on July 14 that his party would be contesting the polls solo in Punjab. “The PML-N is beginning its electoral activities and for this purpose, an organisational meeting of the Punjab [chapter] has been called. The primary agenda that will be discussed is our resolve to take forward the election activity in Punjab with full force,” he said adding, “All national and provincial constituencies, which number 433 — 297 of which are provincial and 146 are NA constituencies — in all those, a PML-N candidate will be present,” he asserted as per a report in the Dawn.


This may lead to some heart burn within the ruling coalition as the PPP is keen to field candidates in Southern Punjab tapping on PTI dissidents. The newly former party IPP led by Jahangir Khan Tareen may also seek a front line role in the Punjab Assembly.


ECP


This comes as the ECP has also blown the election bugle in Pakistan. Elections must be held no later than 10 November 2023 and in normal course by October 14 2023. The polls for the provincial assembly will also be held simultaneously with the national assembly thus the lingering question of polls in Punjab and Khyber Pakhtoonwa which were dissolved by the PTI which enjoyed a majority therein appears to be getting automatically resolved as the ruling PDM alliance pushed back against holding the same within 90 days of dissolution. The PDM hopes to do well with the PTI now completely sidelined after the May 9 incident.


Census and Delimitation


Interior Minister Rana Sanaullah on July 15 said the government had decided not to notify the latest census and that upcoming elections would be held on the basis of the 2017 census. “The CCI (Council of Common Interests) has to complete its term. If this [new] census is not notified by then, the elections will be [held] on the basis of the previous census and delimitation. “And the government has decided it will not notify this [new census] and when the assemblies will dissolve after completing their terms, the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) will be bound to conduct elections on the basis of the previous census,” he said while speaking on Geo News show ‘Naya Pakistan’.


IMF Delegation Meeting Parties


The meeting of the International Monetary Fund (IMF) delegation with political parties as the main opposition party the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) and a constituent of the ruling coalition Pakistan People’s Party [PPP] has come up for criticism by a senior senator who is also member of the PPP – Raza Rabbani. The IMF move to seek assurance from these parties days before the global lender’s executive board meeting to review and possibly endorse the Standby Arrangement (SBA) for Pakistan even as the assurance is given by the government by be viewed as a pragmatic one but raises questions of propriety as it sidelines the ruling order.


IMF's resident representative Esther Perez Ruiz in a statement said that the meetings with political parties were to seek assurances of their support for the SBA but it appears that the body wants higher level of assurance in case of a change in the party leading the government post elections. IMF executive board will meet on July 12 to review the SBA for Pakistan.

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