Bilawal demands polls on time, says not bound by Zardari’s advice

Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) Chairman Bilawal Bhutto-Zardari has distanced his party from his father, former president Asif Ali Zardari’s statement supporting the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) in holding elections after the completion of constituency delimitation.

Earlier today, PPP Co-chairman Zardari expressed complete confidence in the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP), emphasizing the necessity of fresh delimitation under the 2023 census.

However, the PPP, during a central executive committee (CEC) meeting on August 25, demanded that elections be conducted within 90 days, as mandated by the Constitution.

When asked about the difference in their stances on elections during a press conference in Badin, Bilawal directed the reporter to inquire with Zardari about his statement. He reminded everyone of the PPP’s CEC meeting, where the forum considered both opinions on the timing of elections. Legal experts within the party clarified that the Constitution requires elections to be held within 90 days of assembly dissolution.

Bilawal stated that while he is obligated to follow President Zardari on family matters, he is bound to follow the decisions of his party’s central executive committee and adhere to the Constitution and party policy on political issues.

also read: Asif Zardari opposed PPP’s demand of holding polls within 90 days

Today, Zardari defended the ECP’s role, stressing the need for fresh delimitation following the new census. This statement conveyed through PPP’s social media accounts, underscored the ECP’s responsibility to conduct elections in accordance with the Constitution.

This development followed calls from various PPP leaders, including Bilawal, urging the ECP to announce the election date and adhere to the constitutional requirement of holding elections within 90 days. The party reiterated these demands during its delegation’s consultation with ECP members.

Amidst uncertainty about the election date, the Shehbaz Sharif-led government dissolved the National Assembly on August 9, and Sindh and Balochistan assemblies were also dissolved prematurely to allow the ECP to hold elections within 90 days instead of 60 days if the legislatures completed their constitutional terms.

However, the ECP might face challenges in holding elections within the stipulated time because the Council of Common Interest (CCI) approved the 7th Population and Housing Census 2023 just before the assembly’s dissolution. This approval made it constitutionally mandatory for the ECP to conduct elections after completing fresh constituency delimitations based on the census results.

Article 51 (5) of the Constitution specifies that National Assembly seats for each province and the federal capital should be allocated based on the population from the last officially published census.

On August 17, the ECP announced a schedule for new delimitations to be carried out according to the new census data approved by the CCI. As per this schedule, the nationwide constituency delimitation will be notified in December this year.

Considering the time required for this fresh delimitation process, it appears that general elections in the country cannot be held within the 90-day timeframe mandated by the dissolution of provincial and national assemblies.

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