Barrister Shehzad Ata Elahi, the Attorney General for Pakistan AGP, has expressed his concern over the announcement of election dates by President Dr Arif Alvi in Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa and Punjab. Elahi has informed the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) that the head of state has no constitutional authority to do so.
According to Elahi, only the governors are permitted by the Constitution to announce the dates of the elections. Additionally, he expressed the view that it would be impossible to hold the elections within the 90-day time frame set forth by the president.
Elahi emphasised that the president is not permitted to announce election dates under the Representation of the People Act, 1976. The 8th Constitutional Amendment, signed by the country’s former military dictator Gen. Ziaul Haq in 1986, gave the president the authority to carry out this duty. However, the AGP noted that the 18th Constitutional Amendment restricted the governors’ ability to announce election dates.
Despite holding two days of meetings to discuss the issue, the ECP had yet to decide whether to carry out the elections in the two provinces in accordance with the president’s instructions. The meeting’s attendees, led by Chief Election Commissioner Sikandar Sultan Raja, have chosen to consult with legal and constitutional experts Shah Khawar and Sajeel Swati for their opinions on the matter.
Dr Alvi had set April 9 as the date for holding elections in the two provinces and requested the ECP to notify the voters in accordance with Section 57(2) of the Elections Act. There was no restraining order from any judicial forum, and the president had been able to exercise the power and authority vested in him under Section 57 (1) without interference.
The ECP will meet again to discuss its final decision after considering the views of the AGP and the two legal experts.