Wary of ‘law and order situation’, KP governor urges ECP to consult stakeholders before deciding poll date
Published February 1, 2023
Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Governor Haji Ghulam Ali has written a letter to the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) chief, advising him to consult all relevant stakeholders, including political parties, before deciding a date for general elections in the province in view of the “alarming law and order situation”, it emerged on Wednesday.
The development comes two days after a powerful explosion ripped through a mosque in the Peshawar Police Lines area, killing more than 100 people, mostly police officials.
In a letter dated Jan 31, a copy of which is available with Dawn.com, the governor reminded the electoral body of its constitutional binding to announce an election date but expressed worry over the recent deterioration in the law and order situation.
“In view of the alarming law and order situation in the province and series of terrorist attacks during the past days, it would be advisable that before fixing a date for the general elections, the ECP should consult and take into confidence the relevant institutions/LEAs as well as political parties, to ensure that conduct of general elections in a fair, free and peaceful manner in the Province is possible,” the letter addressed to the Chief Election Commissioner Sikander Sultan Raja said.
The KP Assembly was dissolved on Jan 18 after which Mohammad Azam Khan was sworn in as the caretaker chief minister. On Jan 25, the ECP reached out to authorities, suggesting that elections in KP be held between April 15 and 17.
A day earlier, KP Caretaker Chief Minister Azam Khan dispelled the impression of delaying polls because of the current law and order situation.
Talking to the media after a visit to the Peshawar Police Lines on Tuesday, he said that the recent bomb blasts in different areas of the province had no concern with holding the elections.
“Terror incidents have been occurring in southern districts, including Dera Ismail Khan, Tank and Lakki Marwat, for a long time,” he said.
“The law and order situation has not been good in the region for the past 40 years after [Russian invasion of Afghanistan],” Khan had added.
Meanwhile, the PTI on Tuesday approached the Peshawar High Court (PHC) challenging the delay in announcement of the date for elections to the provincial assembly.
It requested the Peshawar High Court to direct the governor to act in accordance with the Constitution, it said.
The petition prayed to declare as unconstitutional and illegal the assertion of the governor, reported in the media, that the decision on holding polls would be taken in the light of reports of intelligence and other agencies.
The petition was filed through senior lawyer Muhammad Muazzam Butt, who was also accompanied by former provincial ministers and leaders of the PTI, including Mohammad Atif Khan, Shaukat Yousafzai and Shahram Khan Tarakai.
The petition stated that then-KP chief minister Mahmood Khan had on Jan 17 forwarded his advice to the governor for dissolution of the provincial assembly under Article 112(1) of the Constitution. It said the governor ordered dissolution of the KP Assembly on Jan 18 with immediate effect.
The petition stated that the Election Commission of Pakistan, through a letter on Jan 24, appraised the governor that consequent to dissolution of the provincial assembly, a general election was to be positively held within 90 days under Article 224(2) of the Constitution.
The petition added that the governor was also reminded by the ECP that under Article 105(3) of the Constitution, he was mandated to fix a date, not later than 90 days from the date the assembly was dissolved, for holding the general elections to the assembly, in consultation with the ECP in terms of Section 57 (1) of the Elections Act, 2017.
It stated that ECP was to announce the election programme within seven days of the announcement of the election date under Section 57 (2) of the Elections Act. It contended that the period of 90 days started with effect from Jan 18 and such polls’ day may not be taken beyond April 17, adding that the ECP had requested the governor to fix the date of polling between April 15 and 17.
The petition regretted that despite the passage of 12 days since the assembly was dissolved and the request made by the ECP on Jan 24, the governor was not inclined to fulfil his constitutional obligation.