ISLAMABAD: The Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) on Thursday informed the Supreme Court that the general elections in the country will be held on February 11, 2024.
The date was shared with the Supreme Court by the ECP’s lawyer during the hearing of petitions calling for timely polls across the country.
“Elections in the country will be held in the country [after] completion of delimitation on November 30,” ECP’s lawyer Sajeel Swati told the three-member bench.
The bench consists of Chief Justice of Pakistan Qazi Faez Isa, Justice Athar Minallah and Justice Amin-Ud-Din Khan. This was the second hearing the three-member bench was holding on the petitions.
The ECP’s lawyer, while sharing the schedule with the apex court, said that all arrangements including delimitation will be completed by January 29.
Explaining the delimitation process, the lawyer said it would take them three to five days to issue the final lists. He added that if 54 days are counted from December 5 then we get January 29 date.
The lawyer said that the ECP was looking to hold the polls on Sunday to make it easier for the people to participate in the elections. He added that under this plan the first Sunday falls on February 4 and the second would be on February 11.
“We decided on our own that elections should be held on Sunday, February 11,” said the lawyer.
On hearing this, CJP Isa directed the lawyer to ask the chief election commissioner to consult the president and get back to the court.
The CJP also told the ECP that once the date is announced the Supreme Court will consider that it is written in stone.
“We will not allow the election date to be changed,” said the CJP. He added that the top court will ensure that elections are held and would implement its decision.
The Supreme Court then adjourned the hearing of the case till 2pm.
Once the hearing resumed, the ECP lawyer informed the Supreme Court that it would consult the president on the elections as soon as possible.
“Election Commission is ready to hold consultations with President Arif Alvi without getting involved in a constitutional debate,” said Swati.
CJP Isa, then writing the court orders, directed the attorney general to make arrangements for the ECP’s meeting with the president.
“The court expects that Election Commission and the president will agree on a date and inform the court,” said the order.
“The court hopes that all problems will be resolved after meeting with the president. Supreme Court will be briefed tomorrow (Friday) after meeting with the president,” said the court. It added that the president and whoever is present in the meeting will have to sign the document.
The court also directed that the president be given the orders of the court for today and October 23 hearing.
“In case of any problems the court will be present,” said the court.
Ambiguity over polls
The country has been gripped in political uncertainty ever since the Imran Khan government was removed through a no-confidence motion in April 2022.
The Shehbaz Sharif-led government, that took over from Khan, 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.
Had the assemblies been dissolved on time, the electoral body was constitutionally bound to hold polls in 60 days.
However, the ECP decided against holding 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 approval made it mandatory for the commission to hold elections following fresh delimitations in light of the results of the census.
Subsequently, on August 17, the ECP announced the schedule of new delimitations to be carried out as per the new census results.
But in September, the commission announced that general elections in the country would take place in the last week of January 2024.
In the same month, the ECP also released the provisional report on the delimitation of constituencies. However, before the announcement, multiple petitions were filed in the Supreme Court against the delay in polls.
All the petitioners had asked the apex court to ensure that polls are held within 90 days.
These petitions were filed during the tenure of former chief justice Umar Ata Bandial, however, they were not fixed for a hearing.__Courtesy geo.tv