By Press Trust of India: The general elections in Pakistan will be held without any delay in October this year, Defence Minister Khawaja Asif has said, dispelling speculation about a possible postponement in polls.
Political experts firmly believe that only free, fair and timely general elections can bring back desperately-needed political stability in Pakistan, which is also facing a severe economic crisis.
The opposition Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) party led by ousted prime minister Imran Khan had expressed apprehensions that the ruling coalition may delay the general elections.
“The assemblies will complete their five-year term in August and polls will take place within the next 60 days. Elections will be held on time,” Asif said on Sunday.
When asked what he meant by “on time”, he replied: “In October. Elections will take place in October without any delay,” The Express Tribune newspaper quoted the senior Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) leader as saying.
According to the constitution, a general election to the National Assembly or a Provincial Assembly shall be held within 60 days following the day on which the term of the assembly is due to expire, unless the Assembly has been dissolved sooner.
The PTI party dissolved the Punjab and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa provincial assemblies in January this year, hoping that the move would force the ruling alliance into dissolving other legislatures and prompt it to hold elections within the 90-day period.
However, that did not happen as talks on deciding a poll date between the government and the Khan-led PTI party failed to yield results.
The government has repeatedly opposed holding snap polls or holding polls for the national and provincial legislatures separately, citing a lack of security, funds and fresh census results.
Even the Supreme Court’s intervention could not lead to elections in the two provinces where caretaker governments are functioning even after the expiry of their 90-day term.
The Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) which is a part of the ruling coalition had also constituted a three-member committee to convince other parties in the ruling alliance about holding polls on time.
PPP Co-Chairman and former Pakistan President Asif Ali Zardari has even said that delaying general elections beyond October would be “foolish”.
The Pakistan Institute of Legislative Development and Transparency (Pildat), a think tank focusing on political and public policy research, has called for holding free and fair general elections for all the assemblies by October 2023.
“General Elections for [the] National [Assembly] and four provincial assemblies in Pakistan must be held latest by October 2023 after the National Assembly completes its 5-year term on 12th August,” it said, adding the Election Commission of Pakistan must be fully prepared for that.
The current National Assembly will complete its five-year term on August 12, Pildat said, adding the fresh general election must be conducted within 60 days, as laid down in the Constitution of Pakistan, which suggests the latest conceivable date for the 2023 general elections is October 12.
However, it added, if the National Assembly is dissolved even one day before the completion of its term, the election must be held within 90 days.