On Saturday, Asif Ali Zardari, the president of the Pakistan Peoples Party Parliamentarians (PPPP), deviated from his party’s consistent stance advocating for elections within 90 days. The former Pakistani president argued that it was essential to complete the delimitation exercise before holding polls.
In a statement, the PPP leader emphasized that the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) had the responsibility to redraw constituency boundaries following a fresh and updated census. He expressed full confidence in the chief election commissioner and all ECP members to conduct elections in accordance with the Constitution.
This contrasting statement from Asif came a day after his son, former foreign minister and PPP chairman Bilawal Bhutto Zardari, showed some flexibility in his earlier stance, suggesting an extension of the election timeline to 120 days if not feasible within the constitutional 90-day period.
In contrast to the PPP, the PMLN leadership seemed comfortable with the idea of holding polls in January or February of the following year.
Asif also addressed the pressing concern of Pakistan’s deteriorating economy, stressing that the country and its economy should take precedence over politics. He urged everyone to prioritize the economy, emphasizing that it was the need of the hour.
He further urged the caretaker government to expedite all Special Investment Facilitation Council (SIFC) projects to put the country on a path of development. The SIFC is a newly established forum aimed at reviving Pakistan’s economy and attracting foreign investment, with the goal of reducing reliance on foreign bailouts from institutions like the International Monetary Fund (IMF).
Notably, the previous PMLN-led government had expanded the caretaker government’s mandate through an amendment to the ECP Act of 2017 just before the end of its term, granting it powers to make important decisions on existing bilateral or multilateral agreements.
The debate over whether to hold elections within 90 days or delay them until the completion of the delimitation process has engaged President Dr. Arif Alvi, political parties, lawyers, think tanks, and other stakeholders. This debate originated after the coalition government comprising PML-N, PPP, and other parties announced census results just before dissolving the National Assembly, seemingly to gain an extra month for election campaigning. However, this move complicated matters for the ECP and others. Despite adjustments in the delimitation timeline by the ECP, the polling dates have not been announced yet, creating uncertainty after the dissolution of the National Assembly on August 8.
Previously, the PTI government had dissolved assemblies with the hope of conducting snap polls within the 90-day period in Punjab and Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa (K-P). However, despite the Supreme Court’s intervention, elections in these two provinces did not take place.