Election Commission announces schedule for Punjab elections

Apart from the obstacles, having free and fair elections is essential, particularly in light of the current economic and political situation. However, it remains to be seen how the election preparations continue in both KP and Punjab.

Election Commission announces schedule for Punjab elections

Governor Haji Ghulam Ali of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KP) has scheduled provincial assembly elections for May 28, according to a recent statement. While the decision has not yet been formally notified to the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP), it is anticipated that an official letter will be sent to the KP governor asking that he inform the ECP of the election date. The governor’s election date coincides with the 25th anniversary of Pakistan’s advent as a nuclear state and is precisely four months after the dissolution of the parliament.

During his discussion with ECP members, the KP governor voiced worry over the security situation in the province, noting the difficulty posed by terrorist attacks in various areas. He also noted that election campaigning would be impossible during Ramadan, and that candidates should have enough time to campaign following Eid al-Fitr.

The chief secretary and police chief of Punjab recently addressed the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) on general election preparations, including the law and order situation, security concerns, economic challenges, and other obstacles. The IGP highlighted that police presence was not restricted to election day, as it was also their responsibility to safeguard residents and prevent crime.

Nevertheless, the chief secretary and IGP indicated that, given the current economic and law-and-order scenario, it would be impossible to ensure adequate security for the April 30 poll without assistance from other security agencies, such as the Pakistan Army.

Due to the current security scenario in the nation, the defence ministry has told the ECP that the army is unable for election duties. Defence Secretary Lt. Gen. (ret.) Hamooduz Zaman Khan and Additional Secretary Maj. Gen. Khurram Sarfraz Khan informed the ECP on the military’s deployment in various regions of the country and along the borders, underlining that the army’s first priority was the security of the borders and the nation.

However, election delays may potentially have security consequences. Political instability may result in a power vacuum that extremist organisations may attempt to exploit. This may result in a rise in violence and terrorism, further destabilising the area. Postponing provincial elections in KPK and Punjab might have far-reaching repercussions that threaten Pakistan’s stability. To guarantee Pakistan’s continued stability and security, it is crucial that elections be conducted on schedule that the democratic process is followed.

The Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) has been told that the Pakistan Army would not be accessible for election-related responsibilities owing to the prevailing security situation in the nation and along its borders. This information may cause a delay in the elections in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KPK) and Punjab. The law and order situation in the country has deteriorated over the last several months, with terrorist organisations carrying out assaults around the nation. Since November, when negotiations with the outlawed terrorist organisation Tehreek-i-Taliban Pakistan broke down, the militant group has upped its assaults, mainly against the police in KPK and neighbouring Afghanistan.

The ECP had scheduled provincial elections for the Punjab Assembly on April 30, while KPK Governor Haji Ghulam Ali had proposed May 28. To guarantee the safety and security of voters, candidates, and election officials, the ECP may have to consider postponing the polls after the revelation that the Pakistan Army would not be available for election duties.

During a meeting presided over by the Chief Election Commissioner (CEC) Sikandar Sultan Raja, the Defence Secretary Lt Gen (ret) Hamood Uz Zaman Khan, and the Additional Secretary, Maj Gen Khurram Sarfraz Khan, briefed the CEC and ECP officials on the security situation in the country and the military’s deployment within Pakistan and along its borders. They highlighted that the army’s first priority is the protection of the nation’s borders and citizens, hence it is now unavailable for electoral duties.

Officials from the ministry of defence indicated that the present status of the nation’s economy also affected the military. But, they stressed that in the end, it would be up to the government to decide whether to limit the military to its core responsibilities or to assign it to secondary jobs such as election-related activities. Officials underlined that in the event of election duties, the army might be sent in fast response force mode, but static mode cannot be used.

Keeping the on-going political, economic, and security situation of Pakistan into consideration, the KPK and Punjab polls may be delayed as a consequence of it. Before making judgements about the elections, the ECP will have to examine this announcement and the safety and security of all parties.

Elections are a crucial aspect of democracy, and their postponement generates a feeling of insecurity and instability. This may result in political discontent and demonstrations, which can develop into violence and jeopardise regional stability.

A delay in provincial elections may further weaken the democratic processes that are vital to Pakistan’s stability. It might convey the appearance that people in authority are attempting to preserve their position by stifling the democratic process, which can diminish public confidence in the government. Not only this, political instability may discourage foreign investors from investing in a nation, resulting in a reduction in economic development and employment creation.

The views expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect Coverpage’s editorial stance

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