Constitutional crisis is expected to be resolved after the vote is set on dates proposed by the Election Commission.
Islamabad, Pakistan – Pakistani President Arif Alvi has announced that elections will be held on April 30 for the dissolved assembly of Punjab, the country’s most populous province.
Friday’s decision followed a proposal by Pakistan’s Election Commission to conduct the polls between April 30 and May 7, according to a statement from the president’s office.
He announced the date after considering the dates proposed by the Election Commission of Pakistan. ECP had proposed an election date between April 30 and May 7, 2023 for general elections to be held for the Punjab Provincial Assembly, and further suggested that elections should preferably be held on Sunday.
— The President of Pakistan (@PresOfPakistan) March 3, 2023
The announcement is expected to resolve a constitutional crisis after Alvi last week sidestepped the election commission by unilaterally announcing April 9 as the election date in two counties.
The Supreme Court intervened on Wednesday and ruled in a divided verdict that elections to the provincial assemblies in Punjab and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa must be held within 90 days of their dissolution.
The top court also said that the election watchdog should consult the president to announce the date for the polls in Punjab.
For Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, the judges ordered the governor of the province, Haji Ghulam Ali, to set a date in consultation with the commission.
The assemblies in the two provinces were controlled by the party of former Prime Minister Imran Khan, who was removed from office in April by a parliamentary vote of no confidence.
Khan’s Pakistani party Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) in January dissolved assemblies in the two regions, which account for about 70 percent of the country’s population. The move was designed to increase pressure on the ruling alliance that replaced Khan’s government to hold early national elections, scheduled for October.
Alvi is a senior PTI leader.
Pakistan’s constitution states that if an assembly is dissolved, elections must be held within 90 days.
Traditionally, the country holds elections for the national and provincial assemblies on the same day.
Muddasir Rizvi, an expert on electoral affairs and governance, said the issue of setting an election date should have been resolved in the political arena without the involvement of the courts.
“Now that it seems that the elections in the provinces will take place ahead of the general election for the national assembly, political parties should sit together and start a broad dialogue on electoral reform,” he told Al Jazeera.
Rizvi said the dialogue should include measures to protect the national assembly elections from the influence of elected provincial governments in Punjab and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa.
“The problem right now is that having elected governments – not caretaker governments – at the helm at the time of national assembly elections is the main cause of discomfort,” he said. “This is a relevant issue and can only be addressed through political dialogue.”