Rana Sanaullah slams President Alvi for April 9 elections announcement

Interior Minister Rana Sanaullah said that President Dr Arif Alvi's unilateral announcement of elections on April 9 was nothing more than piece of scrap paper. He also said that Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf Chairman Imran Khan would be disqualified and punished in corruption cases.

The minister said this in response to President Alvi's order which he gave to the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) on February 20 for holding elections. In his directive, he also unilaterally announced April 9 as a date for elections in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and Punjab where the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) dissolved its provincial assemblies last month at the behest of the party chairman. However, the president's order attracted a lot of criticism from the PDM parties.

Speaking on Geo News programme Aaj Shahzeb Khanzada Kay Sath on Monday, the minister, referring to the President as 'a poor chap', said that he was not significant enough for the PDM that they impeached him. However, he added that any decision regarding the President's impeachment would be made by the leaders of the PDM parties.

"It was President Alvi, not us, who violated the Constitution," said the PML-N minister. He also maintained that it was the responsibility of the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) to conduct free and fair elections. "If the ECP considers that free and fair elections are not possible as there is a caretaker setup in place, then elections cannot take place," he said.

Rana Sanaullah claimed that Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf Chairman Imran Khan would not only be disqualified but also penalised in the corruption case against him, now.

The PML-N minister slammed the PTI chief, saying he [Imran] was putting up excuses by having his leg plastered as he did not want to appear before the court in the Toshakhana and Tyrian White cases. Imran Khan cannot say that he did not steal the watches or that Tyrian is not his daughter, he added.

The interior minister said that the government would take action as soon as forensics reports of audio leaks of former Punjab chief minister Parvez Elahi and the PTI leader Dr Yasmin Rashid are received as both of them have admitted their respective audio leaks. He argued that Judge Arshad Malik was dismissed and Justice Qayyum Malik resigned from his office because of the audio leak.

Tug of war between President and CEC

The struggle between the President and Chief Election Commissioner (CEC) Sikandar Sultan Raja seems to have intensified as the former announced the elections date on February 20 by exercising his power under Section 57 (1) of the Elections Act, 2017. He further asked the electoral body to issue an election programme in accordance with Section 57 (2) of the Act.

Last week, the president had summoned CEC Raja for an urgent meeting on February 20 (Monday) for consultation regarding the date of the poll as he lambasted him over ECP’s “poignant approach” regarding the general elections date.

However, the CEC had excused itself from holding consultations with President Alvi for the time being, saying that the matter was already under judicial consideration.

In his letter to Raja, the president said that he was under oath to preserve, protect and defend the Constitution under Article 42 read with the third schedule of the Constitution.

He wrote that there being no restraining order from any of the judicial fora, there was no impediment to invoking the power and authority vested in him under Section 57 (1) of Elections Act, 2017, empowering him to "announce the date or dates of the general elections after consultation with the Commission".

The Election Commission, in a letter to President Alvi on Feb 20, stated that the issue of fixing the election date is subjudice and it can not be part of this process led by the president.

“In continuation of our earlier two letters, dated 18th and 19th February, 2023 and facts clearly stated therein. The Hon'ble Commission held a meeting today i.e. 20th February, 2023 at 09:30am on the subject matter and decided that the matter being subjudice, the Commission cannot participate in a meeting on the Subject matter with the Office of the President," Secretary ECP Omar Hamid Khan wrote.

The president also added that he had felt it necessary to perform his constitutional and statutory duty to announce the date of elections to avoid the infringement and breach of the Constitution and law i.e., holding of elections not later than 90 days.

The president further said that the governors of Punjab and KP were not performing their constitutional duties for appointing a date, not later than 90 days from the date of dissolution of provincial assemblies as per the Constitution.

He added that the ECP was also not fulfilling its constitutional obligation to hold elections for the assemblies of Punjab and KP.

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