The completion of the constitutional term of two out of four provincial assemblies on August 12, 2023, is raising concerns about national identity. According to the parliamentary calendar, elections must be conducted by October 12. If the assemblies are dissolved prematurely, general elections should take place within 90 days, as permitted by Article 224(1) of the Constitution.
Addressing these concerns, Secretary Omar Hamid Khan of the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) emphasized in a recent press conference that regardless of the timing of dissolution, preparations for the elections are already complete, and they will proceed based on the existing electoral rolls. Minister of Interior, Rana Sanaullah, clarified that in case the population census is not notified before the assembly dissolution day, the elections will be conducted using the old lists.
In May 2023, the digital population census conducted by the National Database and Registration Authority revealed that the country’s population has exceeded 249.5 million. However, MQM, PTI, and Jamaat-e-Islami raised objections to the results, calling for a timely resolution. Upholding democratic principles is crucial, and all national institutions must play their part in safeguarding them.
Despite the preparations, some people are worried about the possibility of the Election Commission failing to hold elections within the prescribed 60 or 90-day period. Such concerns are likely driven by individuals with undemocratic inclinations, propagating negative elements. Prime Minister Shahbaz Sharif has already announced the dissolution of his government next month in his public addresses and gatherings, which was further confirmed in the press conference by the Election Commission Secretary.
Allocating PKR 42.528 billion for the upcoming general elections, the Economic Coordination Committee granted approval, pending confirmation from the federal cabinet. The Special Parliamentary Committee for Electoral Reforms has also finalized proposed amendments, which will be presented for approval to the National Assembly and Senate. These amendments include constituency boundaries based on an equal number of registered voters and providing voting facilities for overseas Pakistanis, subject to the Election Commission’s authorization.
Timely, impartial, and transparent elections are the cornerstone of a democratic system, and concerns and doubts about the process are not new. The legacy of undemocratic practices from past eras still lingers, emphasizing the need for all constituencies to foster positive democratic thinking and strive to cleanse the electoral process of all shortcomings.