ISLAMABAD: President Dr Arif Alvi on Monday called for following the “spirit of the Constitution” with regard to the decisions taken on general elections in the country, his office said in a statement.
The president made the appeal in a meeting with Caretaker Law and Justice Minister Ahmed Irfan Aslam at the Aiwan-e-Sadr. The meeting “discussed many issues” concerning the general elections.
“The President appreciated the Caretaker Prime Minister Anwaar-ul-Haq Kakar’s yesterday’s statement that the caretaker government would abide by the judgment of the Supreme Court of Pakistan on this issue,” the communique added.
It further said that President Alvi urged for the need to uphold the “supremacy of the Constitution” and called for decisions to be taken in accordance with the spirit of the Constitution.
The meeting came days after it was reported that President Alvi held consultations with legal experts about the reply received from the Ministry of Law and Justice pertaining to the Chief Election Commissioner (CEC) Syed Sikandar Sultan Raja’s response to him regarding the election date.
Last week, the Ministry of Law and Justice had informed the president that it was of the view that the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) is the “competent authority to announce or appoint date” for holding and conducting general elections to the national and the provincial assemblies.
The ministry, through its secretary, responded to the president’s letter seeking the ministry’s input on ECP’s response that there was no need for the election watchdog to consult the president on appointing the election date.
Before that President Alvi had written to the ministry to seek “advice” on the ECP’s letter contending that the head of the state is no longer empowered to fix the polls’ date.
In a statement on X, formerly known as Twitter, the President House said that Alvi had written the letter to the ministry’s secretary on the ECP’s response with regard to the letter he had sent for a meeting to decide the election date.
The ECP responded to the president’s letter — in which he had invited Chief Election Commissioner (CEC) Sikandar Sultan Raja — stating he was no longer empowered to fix the date for polls after amendments in election laws.
The development came in a meeting chaired by CEC Raja to ponder over the matter and concluded that the meeting would be of “scant consequence”.
Dr Alvi, in the letter to the CEC, said since the National Assembly was dissolved on August 9, 2023, under Article 48 (5) of the Constitution, he (as the president) was obliged to appoint a date not later than 90 days from the date of dissolution for the holding of general election of National Assembly.
Uncertainty around polls
The Shehbaz Sharif-led government dissolved the National Assembly on August 9, while Sindh and Balochistan assemblies were also prematurely dissolved to allow the electoral authority to hold elections in the country within 90 days instead of 60 days if the legislature completed its constitutional tenure.
However, the ECP may not be able to hold the polls within the stipulated time as the Council of Common Interest (CCI), days before the dissolution of the assemblies, approved the 7th Population and Housing Census 2023.
The CCI meeting chaired by then-prime minister Shehbaz Sharif approved the final results of the census reporting the country’s population at 241.49 million with a growth rate of 2.55%.
The CCI approval made it constitutionally mandatory for the poll watchdog to hold elections following fresh delimitations in the light of the results of the 7th census.
According to Article 51 (5) of the Constitution, the seats of the National Assembly to each province and the federal capital shall be allocated on the basis of population in accordance with the last preceding census officially published.
Subsequently, on August 17, the ECP announced the schedule of new delimitations to be carried out as per the new census approved by the CCI.
As per the schedule, the new delimitation of constituencies nationwide will be notified in December this year.
The ECP schedule showed that fresh delimitation will take nearly four months, meaning the general elections in the country cannot be held within 90 days of the dissolution of the provincial and national assemblies.