The decision to postpone Pakistan’s general elections from November to late January has stirred various reactions among political parties and analysts. While some view it as a positive step, there are concerns about the transparency and fairness of the upcoming polls.
Following the dissolution of Pakistan’s parliament on August 9, there were apprehensions that the elections might exceed the constitutionally mandated 90-day timeframe. On Thursday, the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) announced that the elections would now occur during the last week of January.
Aasiya Riaz, a senior official from the independent political think tank, Pakistan Institute of Legislative Development and Transparency (PILDAT), expressed cautious optimism about the ECP’s announcement but highlighted the absence of crucial details such as a specific date and election schedule. She emphasized the need to prevent further delays and stressed the importance of holding a fresh poll within a reasonable timeframe.
The ECP’s statement mentioned that the final list of redrawn constituency maps would be issued on November 30, allowing for a 54-day election program involving nomination filings, appeals, and campaigning. This process is constitutionally mandated, as polls can only occur after constituencies are redrawn based on the latest census results, a procedure that takes at least four months, according to the ECP.
Political observer Benazir Shah expressed concern about the ECP’s failure to specify a date for the election and accused the commission of evading its primary responsibilities. She noted that this uncertainty comes at a time when some politicians, perceived as being close to the military establishment, are hinting at an extended tenure for the caretaker government. Addressing these concerns is essential, Shah added.
Since the assembly’s dissolution last month, Pakistan has been under the rule of a caretaker government led by Prime Minister Anwaar-ul-Haq Kakar, tasked with ensuring a transparent election. However, concerns have arisen about whether the caretaker government and the ECP can conduct fair elections, especially given the crackdowns faced by the country’s main opposition party, Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI).
Khan’s government was removed through a parliamentary vote of no confidence in April of the previous year. He was jailed on August 5 on corruption charges, though a court later suspended his three-year sentence. Despite the delay in elections, PTI leader Taimur Jhagra expressed doubts about the caretaker government and ECP’s ability to ensure fairness. He called for public and media pressure to ensure stable and fair elections in Pakistan.
The political uncertainty adds to Pakistan’s existing economic challenges, including a balance of payments crisis and high inflation. Security concerns, particularly attacks by the Pakistan Taliban in the country’s northwestern and southwestern provinces, have also escalated this year.
Faisal Karim Kundi, a senior leader of the Pakistan People’s Party (PPP), emphasized that timely and transparent elections could help address the uncertainty and restore public trust in the government. Pervez Rashid, a top leader of Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PMLN), defended the ECP’s announcement, expressing confidence in the election body’s integrity. Rashid noted that his party had faced fairness issues in past elections and urged other parties to understand the system’s limitations and learn from their experiences.