GENERAL elections in Pakistan will be held on February 11, the Election Commission informed the Supreme Court on Thursday (2), putting an end to months-long uncertainty over the polls.
The Election Commission of Pakistan’s counsel, Sajeel Swati, said the process of drawing constituencies would be completed by January 29, paving the way for the polls.
He said this as the apex court resumed hearing on a set of petitions calling for holding elections within 90 days after the dissolution of the National Assembly and the provincial legislatures.
President Arif Alvi dissolved the National Assembly on August 9.
The announcement of the election date coincides with the beginning of negotiations between Pakistan and the International Monetary Fund (IMF) for the release of $710 million second tranche of a $3 billion loan to the cash-strapped country to stabilise its debt-ridden economy.
The clarity on the election date will strengthen the hands of the ministry of finance during the talks, although the IMF has not explicitly attached any such condition.
A three-judge bench comprising Chief Justice of Pakistan (CJP) Qazi Faez Isa, Justice Amin-ud-Din Khan and Justice Athar Minallah took up the pleas moved by the Supreme Court Bar Association (SCBA), the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) and others, the Dawn newspaper reported.
The election commission had earlier ruled out polls this year citing the need for fresh delimitation of constituencies.
Last month, the commission announced that elections would be held in January 2024 but stopped short of announcing a date.
As the hearing resumed on Thursday, Pakistan Peoples Party lawyer Farooq H Naek appeared in the apex court and requested to become a respondent in the case. He was given a green light from the judges after PTI’s lawyer Ali Zafar said he had no objections to the request.
Zafar contended that polls should be held within 90 days. However, CJP Isa said, “Your request for polls within 90 days has now become ineffective.”
The PTI lawyer insisted that his argument was connected with a fundamental right, to which Justice Isa asked if the former just wanted elections now. Zafar replied in the affirmative.
President Alvi had written a letter to chief election commissioner (CEC) Sikandar Sultan Raja on September 13 in which he proposed that elections be held by November 6.
However, the Ministry of Law and Justice later informed Alvi that the powers to announce the poll date rested with the ECP, not the president.