Staggered polls likely
ISLAMABAD: Polls on different dates for the national and provincial assemblies are likely unless the Punjab government agrees to dissolve the assembly in March along with the National Assembly.
The difference of 22 days in the term of the National and Punjab Assemblies is the reason for this peculiar situation.
While the National Assembly will be completing its five-year term on March 16, the tenure of the Punjab’s assembly will end on April 8. Provincial assemblies of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, Sindh and Balochistan will complete their constitutional terms on March 27, April 4 and April 8, respectively.
Secretary of Election Commission Ishtiak Ahmad Khan told Dawn that traditionally provincial assemblies were dissolved within days after the expiry of the National Assembly’s term. He said the Election Commission was ready to hold polls on the same day if a decision to that effect was taken at the political level, but staggered polls would become inevitable if the Punjab government insisted on completing its term.
He pointed out that a governor could dissolve the provincial assembly only on the advice of the chief minister. He said the election schedule was spread over a period of 45 days and another week was required to make arrangements for logistics. The election to the National Assembly was required to be conducted within two months after the expiry of its term on March 16, while for Punjab the 52-day period will start on April 8, making it impossible to hold elections for all assemblies on the same date.
He said the commission might fix another day for polling in a constituency where it was satisfied that polls could not be held on account of natural calamity or for any other reason beyond its control. He said the expression might be meant that it was not mandatory to hold polls for all assemblies on the same date.He said the language of section 25 of the Representation of the People’s Act also makes it clear that separate dates for polls could be announced by the president.
Punjab government’s spokesman Senator Pervaiz Rasheed when asked to comment on the matter, said: “What we will do we will reveal at an appropriate time.”
He said the only reason for the present situation was that, after forming the government at the centre, the government did not let the Punjab Assembly meet for weeks.
He said efforts had been made to divide the PML-N and form a government in Punjab with PML-Q’s support.
Under Section 11 of the Representation of People’s Act, the date for elections is announced by the President and the ECP is required to notify it in the official gazette within one month.