Pakistan's senate approves move to delay Feb.8 elections, but decision not binding - GulfToday

Pakistan's senate approves move to delay Feb.8 elections, but decision not binding


Female candidates submit their nomination papers in Quetta. File

Tariq Butt, Correspondent / Reuters 

Pakistan's senate approved a resolution on Friday to further delay national elections which had been scheduled to take place on Feb.8, the chairman of the senate said while addressing senators.

The resolution passed by the senate, however, is not binding and does not necessarily mean elections will be further delayed. There was no immediate comment from the election commission, the body that conducts elections in the country.

The attendance was highly thin and just 14 senators were present in a 100-member House. This figure doesn’t even meet the requirement of quorum in the Senate. Caretaker Information Minister Murtaza Solangi, who was present in the House, opposed the resolution.

The resolution instantly attracted large-scale criticism from across the political spectrum, and almost all leading political parties rejected it terming it a conspiracy against the electoral process.

Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) senator Afnanullah Khan, who was present in the Senate, opposed the passage of the resolution.

The Balochistan Awami Party (BAP) senators mainly supported the move and delivered speeches highlighting the dangers involved in holding the elections on Feb.8. They said that people and politicians of Punjab did not recognise the severity of terroristic attacks in smaller provinces.

Solangi and Senator Afnan both opposed the resolution, which was moved by independent lawmaker Dilawar Khan during a session with only 14 lawmakers in attendance.

As he read the resolution out loud, Dilawar Khan said the Constitution upheld the right to vote for every citizen of Pakistan and the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) was bound to conduct free and fair polls contingent upon inclusivity and ensuring the participation of all regional people.

"The vote turnout in colder areas remains notably high during the moderate weather conditions. January and February are recognised as the coldest months in the majority of the areas in Balochistan and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa [KP],” he said.

Dilawar Khan noted that various political parties had expressed their reservations regarding difficulties in ensuring participation in cold areas during the electoral process.

He expressed "great concern” on the recent attempts on the lives of Jamiat-e-Ulema-e-Islam (JUI-F) chief Fazlur Rehman, former lawmaker Mohsin Dawar, and other political figures.

"The Ministry of Interior has conveyed serious threats to the lives of prominent politicians increasing the challenges faced by political parties in exercising their right to a free and fair election,” Dilawar Khan said.

He said that there had been a spike in attacks on security forces and citizens, particularly in KP and Balochistan. "The intelligence agencies have warned of militant attacks threats on election rallies in both provinces.”

The senator said alerts had been issued by intelligence agencies indicating imminent threats of militant attacks on election rallies, which could have a potential impact on the safety of citizens and the democratic electoral process.

The election schedule may be postponed to facilitate the "effective participation of people from all areas of Pakistan and belonging to all political shades”, Dilawar Khan demanded, adding that the delay aims to uphold constitutional rights to political participation.

"The ECP is urged to promptly implement the postponement and ensure that all necessary arrangements are in place to facilitate the smooth conduct of elections and the revised date. The process of filing nomination papers and scrutiny shall continue with the revised extended timelines. The ECP shall engage proactively with relevant stakeholders, political parties and communities to address their concerns and foster an environment conducive to free and fair elections,” Dilawar Khan said, adding that the House was confident in the ability of the electoral watchdog to oversee the revised poll schedule.

Pakistan is currently being run by a caretaker government under interim Prime Minister Anwaar ul Haq Kakar that is meant to oversee a general election.

Caretakers are usually limited to overseeing elections, but Kakar's set-up is the most empowered in Pakistan's history thanks to recent legislation that allows it to make policy decisions on economic matters.

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