On Monday, Nisar Khuhro, the leader of the Pakistan People’s Party (PPP), announced the postponement of the planned Sindh-wide protest against the fragmented elections across the country, which was scheduled for tomorrow, April 25th.
Nisar Khuhro, the leader of Pakistan People’s Party (PPP), issued a statement explaining that the party has decided to postpone its planned protest as a display of restraint. The decision came just a day after he had announced that the party would stage a province-wide protest in Sindh, stating that the province would not allow Pakistan to be divided into two parts. Khuhro had emphasized that Sindh would only accept one-day polls and not support fragmented elections.
The announcement was made amidst an ongoing deadlock regarding the elections in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and Punjab, where the provincial assemblies were dissolved earlier this year. While the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) party has been insistent on holding polls in the provincial legislatures, the government stands firm on holding elections across the country on the same day.
In early April, the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) party had filed a petition with the Supreme Court (SC) requesting the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) to hold general elections for the Punjab Assembly on May 14. However, the government refused to comply with the apex court’s orders.
Last week, after several rounds of discussions, the SC granted temporary relief to the main political parties in the country, giving them a week to reach a consensus on a date for elections to both the provincial and national assemblies. The aim was to ensure that the elections could be held simultaneously across the country.
In a statement released today, Nisar Khuhro called on all of the country’s institutions, including the judiciary, to listen to the people’s voices and conduct elections on the same day. He warned that if the people’s demands were not addressed, a new date for the protest would be announced.
Khuhro emphasized that Pakistan could not afford to conduct fragmented elections, as doing so would damage the country’s political system and raise questions about the transparency of the elections.
He also stressed that holding elections on a single day after the assemblies’ five-year term would strengthen the political system in Pakistan.
Stalemate over Elections
In April, the Supreme Court (SC) directed the government to provide Rs21 billion to the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) for conducting elections in Punjab and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa by April 10. On April 11, the ECP was supposed to submit a report on whether or not the government had complied with the order. However, the government referred the matter to Parliament which defied the court’s orders and refused to issue the funds.
In a sealed envelope, the ECP submitted a report to the Supreme Court earlier this month, informing the apex court about the government’s reluctance to issue the required funds. Afterward, the court directed the State Bank of Pakistan (SBP) to release funds worth Rs21bn from Account No. I, a principal component of the Federal Consolidated Fund worth Rs1.39 trillion, and send an appropriate communication to the finance ministry by April 17.
The central bank allocated the funds on April 17 and sought the finance ministry’s approval to release the amount. The federal cabinet’s approval was required to release the amount from the FCF, while the government had to get the National Assembly’s approval for its release. On April 18, the coalition government rejected its own demand for the provision of Rs21bn as a supplementary grant to the ECP for holding polls in the two provinces through the NA.
Last week, the ECP, defence ministry, and finance ministry submitted their respective reports to the court. The ECP report stated that staggering of elections in Punjab and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa was not feasible since it involved significant expenditures compared to holding of polls on the same day.
In contrast, the defence ministry highlighted the need to hold the elections on the same day given the heightened security situation in the country. It also said that the armed forces would be able to carry out election duties by early October.
On the other hand, the finance ministry said that it was difficult to sanction the release of the funds due to the rejection of the National Assembly to a government-sponsored motion to grant Rs21bn to the ECP for holding the elections in Punjab and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa.