ISLAMABAD: The Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) is contemplating setting January 28, 2024, as the date for the General Elections 2024, sources indicated on Friday.
The ECP, gearing up for the forthcoming elections, is expected to formally inform the Supreme Court of Pakistan (SC) within the next two days, according to these sources.
This development comes in response to the SC’s request for the commission’s stance on the matter of timely elections.
During a recent hearing in the apex court, Chief Justice of Pakistan (CJP) Qazi Faez Isa, who leads a three-member bench along with Justice Athar Minallah and Justice Amin-Ud-Din Khan, observed that meeting the 90-day deadline for conducting elections was “not possible” and expressed dissatisfaction with the petitioners’ lack of preparation.
The petitions, filed by the Supreme Court Bar Association, Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI), and others, seek elections within the 90-day constitutional limit. The SCBA lawyer informed the court that the 90-day period would conclude on November 3, prompting CJP Isa to question the feasibility of holding elections within that timeframe. The lawyer conceded that even if the top court issued the order, it would not be possible to hold elections within 90 days.
The ambiguity surrounding the election timeline stems from the dissolution of the National Assembly led by Shehbaz Sharif’s government on August 9, with the Sindh and Balochistan assemblies also dissolved ahead of schedule to allow the electoral authority to conduct elections within 90 days. Had the assemblies been dissolved on time, the ECP would have been constitutionally obligated to hold polls within 60 days.
However, the ECP decided to delay the elections due to the Council of Common Interest (CCI) approving the 7th Population and Housing Census 2023 shortly before the assembly dissolutions.
This approval mandated fresh delimitations based on the census results, prompting the ECP to announce a schedule for new delimitations on August 17. Subsequently, the ECP announced that the general elections in the country would take place in the last week of January 2024.
Before this announcement, several petitions were filed in the Supreme Court to challenge the delay in holding elections.
All petitioners have requested the apex court to ensure that elections are conducted within 90 days. These petitions were filed during the tenure of former Chief Justice Umar Ata Bandial but had not been scheduled for a hearing.