PPP’s Sherry Rehman urges ECP to declare election date and remove ambiguity

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Sherry Rehman, a prominent leader of the Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP), has called upon the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) to promptly announce the date for the upcoming elections, aiming to dispel the pervasive uncertainty gripping the nation—a matter that has even begun to concern foreign diplomats.

Speaking on a private news channel, Rehman emphasized that foreign diplomats were increasingly seeking clarity on when the prevailing uncertainty in Pakistan would come to an end. She underscored the pressing need to address this uncertainty, asserting that it was unwelcome by both local and international stakeholders.

Regarding recent meetings between foreign ambassadors and Pakistani “institutions,” an allusion to the US envoy Donald Blome’s meeting with Chief Election Commissioner Sikandar Sultan Raja, Rehman acknowledged the unusual nature of such encounters. She attributed these meetings to the absence of a clear election date, suggesting that many issues could be resolved simply by announcing the election date.

Rehman reiterated her party’s stance on the election timeframe, emphasizing that PPP’s position remained steadfast: elections should take place within the constitutionally mandated period of 90 days following the premature dissolution of the National Assembly on August 9.

While PPP is the sole party within the Pakistan Democratic Movement-led former ruling coalition that has consistently advocated for adhering to the constitutionally prescribed cutoff date of November 9 for elections, recent statements from its top leadership suggest a degree of flexibility in this stance.

In a recent meeting with fellow party leaders, PPP Chairperson Bilawal Bhutto-Zardari emphasized the importance of holding general elections in accordance with the Constitution to address the people’s concerns. This marked a departure from explicitly mentioning the 90-day deadline.

Similarly, PPP Co-Chairperson Asif Ali Zardari emphasized that the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) was obligated to conduct a fresh delimitation of constituencies following the release of the 2023 digital census results—a primary reason cited by the ECP for delaying elections beyond November. The ECP’s decision is rooted in Section 17(2) of the Elections Act, which mandates constituency delimitation after each official census.

Additionally, leading legal organizations have called for strikes, demanding elections by November 9, as stipulated under Article 224 of the Constitution. Last month, President Arif Alvi invited CEC Raja for a meeting to establish an appropriate election date, citing Article 244 of the Constitution’s 90-day mandate due to the premature dissolution of the National Assembly on August 9.

However, a recent amendment to the Elections Act 2017 has empowered the ECP to unilaterally announce election dates without the need to consult the president. The CEC responded to the president, stating that meeting to decide the election date held “scant importance” in light of this change. Subsequently, the president sought advice from the law ministry, which confirmed that the authority to declare the election date rested with the ECP.

In discussions with caretaker Law Minister Ahmed Irfan Aslam, President Alvi emphasized the importance of making decisions “in accordance with the spirit of the Constitution.”