ISLAMABAD: President Dr Arif Alvi and the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) have unanimously agreed on holding general elections in the country on February 8, 2024.
“After a detailed discussion, the meeting unanimously agreed to hold general elections in the country on 8th February 2024,” said an announcement from the President House after a detailed meeting of Alvi with Chief Election Commissioner (CEC) Sikandar Sultan Raja, Attorney General Mansoor Usman Awan and four members of the ECP on Thursday evening.
The statement said that according to Thursday’s order of the Supreme Court of Pakistan, the CEC, along with the AGP and four ECP members, came to meet the president at the Aiwan-e-Sadr to discuss the date for holding the general elections in the country. The president was given a briefing on the progress the ECP has made in delimitation and for elections. “It was [then] unanimously decided that the election will be held on Thursday, February 8,” the statement added.
The meeting between the sides was on the orders of the Supreme Court, which had instructed the election commission to consult the president and inform the SC about the polls date today (Friday). The ECP had told the top court that polls would be held on February 11, but the SC asked the commission to consult with the president.
Following the consensus, AGP Awan and CEC Raja will inform the top court about the decision. The court in its order had instructed the AGP to arrange the meeting between ECP and Alvi, provide the president with the court order and be available to render assistance. “We expect that the matter of appointing a date for holding general elections shall be settled, and this court will be informed tomorrow (Friday),” the top court said in the order.
Earlier, during the hearing, ECP’s lawyer Sajeel Swati told the court that the general elections in the country will be held on February 11, 2024. “Elections in the country will be held after completion of delimitation on November 30,” ECP’s lawyer Sajeel Swati told the three-member bench.
The ECP’s lawyer, while sharing the schedule with the apex court, said that all arrangements including delimitation will be completed on 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 it would conclude on January 29.
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 would have fallen 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 tell the chief election commissioner to consult the president and get back to the court. The Supreme Court then adjourned the hearing till 2pm.
The ECP lawyer told the court that the electoral body had decided to hold consultations with President Alvi on the date. “The ECP will consult with the president in the shortest time possible and without getting into any constitutional debate,” he added.
CJP Isa advised the ECP’s lawyer to contact the president’s principal secretary the same day. He also told him to keep the AGP on board. “The attorney general should make an appointment with the president today or tomorrow,” said the chief justice, stressing that the ECP will not be allowed to extend the election date.
The CJP said that no petitions will be heard once the date is confirmed. The top court said that it should be informed about the date after the ECP and president decide on it. The Supreme Court then adjourned the hearing till Friday (today).
Meanwhile, the Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP), Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PMLN) and Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) welcomed the ECP’s announcement that elections in the country will take place on February 11, 2024. PPPP Secretary General Farhatullah Babar said let’s hope that now not only the elections will indeed be held on the promised date but they will also be held with a level playing field for all political parties and their leaders.
Babar opined that these elections have the potential to make or break the system and the democratic project.
PMLN senior leader Ayaz Sadiq welcomed the announcement saying that it’s a positive development and that the process to hold elections has commenced. However, he said fixing the date for polls is the mandate of the ECP.
PMLN leader Irfan Siddiqui told Geo News that the ECP’s announcement is a positive development as it will ensure stability in the country. “I welcome this development even more because the announcement came from the Supreme Court which has increased its sanctity,” he remarked.
PTI lawyer Barrister Ali Zafar termed the SC proceedings as “historic” as ambiguity regarding the polls ended with it. Good news about elections has been received after a long time, he added.
Meanwhile, Chief Election Commissioner Sikandar Sultan Raja Thursday said on the one hand everyone says that elections should be transparent while on the other hand interference is also done.
In an informal chat with journalists, Raja said the commission did not refuse to meet the president. He clarified that the decision not to meet him was of the commission.
“We had given the date of February 11 in the Supreme Court for the general elections and also we mentioned the date of February 11 in the letter to president. Then it was unanimously decided that the general elections should be held on February 8.”
The CEC said that elections have been held in February before. He said that all the institutions are respected but the Election Commission is sticking to its stance. He said when KP and Punjab Assembly were dissolved, the Election Commission said at that time that elections should be held simultaneously in the whole country.
About the Election Commissionâ€™s meeting with the head of the state, he said, â€œThe president welcomed us well and the pictures you must have seen. Our effort was that Sunday will be good for polling. The army will help us in the electionsâ€ .
About ex-premier Imran Khan, he said that there is no doubt that PTI chairman is a popular leader of the country, he is the head of a party and he should have exercised patience.
The CEC said he respected the PTI chairman from the bottom of his heart and wanted all the politicians to sit together. He said he used to idealise the PTI chairman in the past. â€œI wanted the PTI chairman to play a patient role in the political environment,” he said.
About the allotment of bat as a poll symbol, he said the symbol of the bat will be on the ballot paper.