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Pre-Provincial Election Wranglings in Pakistan

The Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) President and Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif has invited applications from the prospective candidates for party tickets to contest Punjab Assembly election as per the Minister for Information and Broadcasting Marriyum Aurangzeb.

Former Prime Minister Imran Khan is alleging that an officer in the intelligence agency the ISI is all powerful and is behind targeting him. There are officers in the ISI who Mr Khan claims are bent on targeting him and will go to any extent including assassination with one bid that has failed as claimed.

Mr Khan has also tried to gain attention of the present Army Chief General Asim Munir who has so far stayed away from the public glare and has avoided any comments of a political nature.

Mr Khan is hoping that the Army and the ISI will be under pressure to support him particularly when the mood of the public in Pakistan is solidly behind him with 65 % being favourable as per a recent Gallup poll.

There is a perception in Pakistan that the Army is divided over support or otherwise to Mr Khan. Former DG, ISI Lt. Gen. Faiz Hameed who was also Corps Commander recently and has resigned is an open supporter of Imran Khan. There are other officers in the Army who are also believed to be supporters of Mr Khan but have not come out openly.

Provincial Assembly Polls Dilemma

The Punjab and KP assemblies — where the PTI had governments — were dissolved on January 14 and January 18, respectively, in an attempt to hold immediate polls as the Constitution of Pakistan states that these need to be held within 90 days.

On Jan 24, the Election Commission of Pakistan [ECP] wrote to the principal secretaries of Punjab and KP governors, suggesting elections in Punjab between April 9 and 13, and in KP between April 15 and 17.

President Alvi who was a core member of the PTI also urged the ECP on Feb 8 to “immediately announce” the date for polls in KP and Punjab and put an end to “dangerous speculative propaganda” on both the provincial assembly and general elections.

As per Dawn News on Feb 17, President Alvi had invited CEC Raja for an urgent meeting regarding consultations on election dates but the ECP told him he had no role in the announcement of dates for general elections to provincial assemblies and the commission was aware of its constitutional obligation in this regard.

Dawn reports that thereafter the president had unilaterally announced April 9 as the date for holding general elections for the Punjab and KP assemblies.

Finally it was the Supreme Court having taken Suo Motu notice of political developments leading to delay of elections which sought polls to be held earliest.

Thus after dilly dallying at various levels – political, government and the election commission it is apparent that polls are now being seriously planned in the country.

Thus the ECP is meeting the stakeholders in compliance with the apex court orders to hold polls within 90 days of the assemblies’ dissolution.

The elections in Punjab are scheduled to be held on April 30 while the date for KP polls is yet to be finalised.

In a similar briefing by the secretaries of the interior and finance ministries,, the election organising authority was informed of certain factors causing difficulties to extend security and funds for elections.

The finance and interior secretaries were called to the meeting to ensure the provision of funds and security for the elections. The ECP has sought Rs65 billion to hold the general election across the country. Out of this, Rs20 billion would urgently be needed for polls in Punjab and KP.



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