The schedule for Pakistan’s general elections on February 8 has been issued, hours after the Supreme Court quashed a lower court’s decision which could have delayed the much-awaited polls.
The election schedule was issued on Friday night by the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP), within hours after the Supreme Court quashed a decision by the Lahore High Court (LHC) to suspend the appointment of officials from the bureaucracy to oversee the elections in defiance of the apex court’s orders.
The LHC’s verdict was issued on a petition filed by jailed former prime minister Imran Khan’s Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) — the same party that had called for timely polls in a plea filed in the Supreme Court.
Due to the LHC’s order, Chief Justice Qazi Faez Isa and Chief Election Commissioner (CEC) Sikandar Sultan Raja met with senior officials on Friday to ensure that everything went according to plan.
Following detailed deliberations, the commission filed a petition in the top court seeking the annulment of the LHC’s order. The Supreme Court accepted the plea a few hours back, putting the process back on track.
According to the ECP’s notification, the nominations by the candidates can be filed with the Returning Officers (ROs) from December 20-22. The names of the nominated candidates would be published on December 23 and the scrutiny of their documents would be held from December 24-30.
The last date for filing appeals against the RO’s decisions on rejecting or accepting nomination papers will be January 3 and the final date for deciding the appeals of candidates by an appellate tribunal will be January 10.
The revised list of candidates will be published on January 11 and the last date for withdrawing one’s candidature is January 12. The election symbols will be allotted to political parties on January 13 with polls set for February 8.
The electoral watchdog added that the election program shall also apply to the seats reserved for women and non-Muslims in the national and provincial assemblies. “Last date of filling of a separate priority list for seats reserved for women and non-Muslims before the ROs is December 22,” the notification read.
After fresh delimitation, the National Assembly (NA) would consist of 336 seats, including 266 general seats, 60 seats reserved for women, and 10 for non-Muslims.
The delimitation shows that the strength of the Assembly has decreased by six seats from the previously 342 seats.
Earlier, in an informal chat with the journalists, Chief Election Commissioner (CEC) Sikandar Sultan Raja said the ECP was fully prepared for the polls.
“I never said the election may be delayed,” he said, adding that the ECP was fully prepared for polls.
The issuance of a detailed schedule removed the last bit of doubt about holding elections in the country on February 8 as the Supreme Court in orders suspending the LHC verdict stated that nobody would be allowed to derail the democracy and ordered the ECP to go ahead with its plan to organize the polls on the stated date.