ECP ‘apathy, inaction’ irks president

President Arif Alvi on Friday invited Chief Election Commissioner (CEC) Sikandar Sultan Raja for an ‘urgent meeting’ on February 20 for consultations on the dates for the polls in Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa and Punjab

The meeting will take place at Aiwan-e-Sadr in accordance with Section 57(1) of the Elections Act, 2017, which provides that the president is entrusted to announce the date for the polls after consulting the Election Commission Pakistan (ECP)

The president wrote to the CEC that since his previous letter to the ECP dated February 8, some substantial developments, including the Lahore High Court (LHC) order that directed the commission to announce the date for elections in Punjab without delay and recent observations of the Supreme Court, had taken place

He expressed his displeasure over the “apathy and inaction” on the part of the electoral watchdog, which had not responded to his earlier letter as yet

The president wrote that he had “waited anxiously that the ECP would realise its constitutional duties to proceed and act accordingly, but he was extremely dismayed by the electoral watchdog’s poignant approach on this important matter”

Alvi once again reminded the ECP that being conscious of his constitutional responsibility of preserving, protecting, and defending the Constitution, he was inviting the CEC for an urgent meeting on the matter

In response, a spokesperson for the ECP said it was a constitutional body and performing its functions according to the Constitution, law and its mandate

The ECP was not taking “directions” from anyone, the spokesperson added in a statement

The statement further read that the ECP operated with transparency, impartiality and without succumbing to any intimidation or pressure

It stated that the benches formed by the CEC had decided several petitions so far

Highlighting the ECP’s achievements, the statement read that the electoral watchdog had successfully conducted the elections for the 48 Senate seats that fell vacant after the completion of the tenure of the lawmakers holding them

It further pointed out that the ECP had managed to peacefully conduct the by-elections for five, 19 and 40 Senate, National Assembly and provincial assembly seats, respectively

It added that now it was preparing for the by-elections for 65 NA seats

The commission took credit for the peaceful conducting of cantonment board polls across the country for 2021-22

It further stated that it had not only managed to succeed in holding the local government elections at all tiers in K-P, but also ensured provision of security to the voters and polling staff

It added that the transparency in the K-P LG polls was appreciated by all stakeholders

The ECP said it had managed to conduct LG elections in Sindh and Balochistan last year despite severe difficulties

It continued that it had managed to successfully conclude the uphill task of delimitation of fresh constituencies for the next general elections

The commission pointed out that preparing new voters lists was a difficult task

However, the ECP conducted a countrywide survey and published the fresh voters lists on October 7, 2022

It noted that the voters lists had been updated for the next general elections

They carried the names of eligible voters, it added

Earlier this month, the president had urged the electoral watchdog to “immediately announce” the dates for elections in K-P and Punjab, warning that the Constitution did not allow for any delays as they would cause “serious long-term setbacks to democracy”

President Alvi had also stressed the need for putting an end to the “dangerous speculative propaganda” about both the provincial assembly and general polls

The Punjab and K-P assemblies were dissolved on January 14 and January 18, respectively, after  PTI chairman and deposed premier Imran Khan had announced that his governments in the two provinces would dissolve their legislatures so that the country could move towards  fresh elections

On February 10, the LHC had ordered the ECP to announce the date for elections in Punjab without any delay

Similarly, on February 16, a division bench of the apex court had referred the matter of the Punjab Assembly elections to Chief Justice of Pakistan Umar Ata Bandial for invoking suo motu jurisdiction, warning that there was an eminent danger of violation of the Constitution

Since his ouster from the post of the prime minister through a no-confidence resolution in April last year, the PTI chairman has been demanding snap polls

He says only a democratically elected government could make the tough decisions needed for pulling the country out of its financial crisis

Date:19-Feb-2023 Reference:View Original Link