The following mention appeared in Pakistan Today on Feb 20, 2023, at the following link
The president announced that general elections for the parliaments of Punjab and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa will take place on April 9, a day after the chief election commissioner declined point-blank his summon for an “urgent meeting” on the subject.
The decision on Monday to hold the elections in the two provinces follows the dissolution of their respective legislatures by Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI) governments at the behest of former prime minister Imran Khan, ahead of the completion of their constitutionally-mandated five-year terms in October.
According to a statement issued by the press wing of the presidency, the date for the general elections for the two parliaments has been set under Section 57(1) of the Elections Act, 2017.
The law stipulates the president shall “announce the date of the general elections after consultation with the [election] commission.”
The release said President Arif Alvi has ordered the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) to “issue election programme in accordance with Section 57(2) of the Act.”
The letter to Sikander Sultan Raja, its chief, said the decision to hold the elections was made under Section 57(1) of the Elections Act, 2017. The president has, therefore, asked Raja to issue the election programme under Section 57(2) of the same law.
Alvi defended his announcement of the date by saying there was “no impediment in invoking the power and authority vested in him” as there was “no restraining order from any of the judicial fora”.
He also criticised Baligh ur-Rehman and Haji Ghulam Ali, the governors in Punjab and KP, for not performing their constitutional duties to appoint a date not later than 90 days from the date of dissolution of the assemblies.
The president lambasted the commission for “not fulfilling its constitutional obligation for holding polls” of the assemblies concerned. He said the ECP had already indicated the possible dates for the elections in its various communications to the constitutional functionaries and that it was the commission’s responsibility to hold the elections within ninety days.
He also revealed that he had initiated a “serious consultation process” with the ECP for the date announcement, but the commission replied it “could not participate in a meeting on the subject matter” with the president.
The commission has summoned an ‘important meeting’ on Tuesday to discuss the announcement and take a decision according to “Constitution and law.”
‘PIECE OF PAPER’
President Alvi’s letter drew a scathing reaction from the government whose members dubbed it a “piece of paper.”
Speaking on the floor of the National Assembly, Minister for Law and Justice Azam Nazeer Tarar said Alvi could announce the date for the election of the National Assembly but not that of the provincial parliaments after their premature dissolution.
He had no constitutional jurisdiction to announce the date for the elections of Punjab and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa assemblies, and thus he had violated the Constitution, the minister said.
He said Article 48 (5) of the Constitution allowed the president to announce the date for the election of the National Assembly after it was dissolved by him.
Article 48 (5) says: ” Where the president dissolves the National Assembly, notwithstanding anything contained in clause (1), he shall appoint a date, not later than ninety days from the date of the dissolution, for the holding of a general election to the Assembly and appoint a care-taker cabinet.”
Tarar said: “Article 105 (3) allows the governor to announce the date for holding the election to respective provincial assembly if he has dissolved that assembly.”
Article 105 (3) reads:” Where the governor dissolves the provincial assembly, notwithstanding anything contained in clause (1), he shall appoint a date, not later than ninety days from the date of dissolution, for the holding of a general election to the assembly and (b) appoint a care-taker cabinet.”
The minister said the governor did not dissolve the Punjab Assembly, rather it stood dissolved after 48 hours of the advice given by the chief minister. The governor had refused to sign the advice.
Moreover, the president could not fix the election date as the matter was sub-judice, he maintained.
As per Article 218 (3), he said, it was the responsibility of the Election Commission of Pakistan to conduct the elections.
He recalled that the president had even refused to administer the oath to Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif.
Earlier speaking in the House, Minister for Defence Khawaja Muhammad Asif said: “The president’s announcement of the election date for the provincial assemblies is unconstitutional, and the law will take its course in this regard.”
He alleged that President Alvi was “toeing his party’s line”. According to the Constitution, the president could announce the election date for the National Assembly not that for the provincial assemblies, he added.
Mohsin Dawar lamented that such a situation would not have arisen had the incumbent government taken those taking unconstitutional measures during the no-confidence motion to the task.
Syed Agha Rafiullah of the Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) said the president had overstepped his constitutional domain.
PML-N’s Barjees Tahir proposed the House to pass a resolution against presidential move.
Interior Minister Rana Sanaullah Khan assailed President Dr Alvi, saying the President should stay within the limits of the constitution, advising him to refrain from using the office as a base for blackmail.
In a tweet, the PML-N stalwart said that president has nothing to do with the election dates.
“The Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) is not your slave to obey what you say,” he said, adding President cannot force the ECP to comply with illegal and unconstitutional orders.
‘ECP BEING PRESSURISED’
Minister for Information and Broadcasting Marriyum Aurangzeb said the ECP was being pressurized unconstitutionally to get a date for the elections.
In a statement, the minister said the Election Commission of Pakistan was a constitutional institution and no one would be allowed to transform it into Imran Khan’s Tiger Force.
She urged that the office of the President should be loyal to the Constitution and any violation could invoke Article 6.
According to the interpretation of the Supreme Court, the office of the President was symbolic, Marriyum Aurangzeb said and pointed that as per Supreme Court verdicts, any collusion with a political party was a violation of the office and oath of the President.
MIXED LEGAL REACTIONS
Retired Justice Shaiq Usmani said the president has no authority to announce a date for elections.
He called the president’s ruling about the elections nothing but a “piece of paper”. He said it was the job of the governors, not the president, to set a date for elections in provinces.
Justice Usmani said political parties could approach the court against the president’s announcement.
Minister for Kashmir and Gilgit-Baltistan Affairs Qamar Zaman Kaira said the president has to act on the advice of the prime minister while announcing a date for elections to the legislature.
Pakistan Institute of Legislative Development and Transparency (PILDAT) President Ahmed Bilal Mehboob also reiterated that the president could not, on his own, give a date for elections.
Former attorney general for Pakistan Irfan Qadir said he did not think the president is constitutionally authorised to announce elections in Punjab and KP, without meaningful discussion with the commission.
“Even if we accept there is a provision in the Constitution, the president has no right to hold elections,” he commented.