29.10.2023 Author: Taut Bataut

Will Pakistan Really Hold General Election on November 6, 2023?

Will Pakistan Really Hold General Election on November 6, 2023?

In Pakistan, the President’s authority to set the election date following the dissolution of the National Assembly is defined in Article 48(5) of the Pakistani Constitution. According to this article, when the President dissolves the National Assembly on the advice of the Prime Minister, general elections must take place within 90 days from the date of dissolution. This provision ensures the swift filling of seats resulting from the assembly’s dissolution.

On August 9, Pakistan’s President, Arif Alvi, dissolved the National Assembly, the lower house of parliament, based on Prime Minister Shahbaz Sharif’s recommendation. Given that the Election Commission of Pakistan typically requires approximately 54 days to prepare for a general election, President Alvi suggested the general election date as November 6 in a letter. However, it is becoming increasingly evident that the interim government is here to stay, and Alvi’s letter to the Election Commission of Pakistan appears to be toothless.

In his letter to the Election Commission of Pakistan, President Alvi first emphasized his constitutional duty to ensure that elections are held within 90 days of the assembly’s dissolution. Alvi then argued that November 6 falls on the 89th day from the dissolution of the Assemblies and, therefore, should be the election date. However, the Chief Election Commissioner of Pakistan, Sikandar Sultan Raja, disagreed with Alvi, asserting that the Election Amendment Act 2023 grants the power to announce the election date to the Election Commission of Pakistan. Notably, the federal and provincial Ministries of Law and Justice share Raja’s viewpoint. It is important to clarify that all legal experts in Pakistan agree that the Act is subordinate to the constitution, and it is an established principle that no law can override the Constitution. Concurrently, the interim Prime Minister of Pakistan, Anwar-ul-Haq Kakar, has consistently expressed that the final election date should be determined by the Election Commission of Pakistan.

Returning to Alvi’s letter, he suggested that the Election Commission announce the date after consulting with stakeholders and the superior judiciary of the country. This implies that the Supreme Court has to play a pivotal role in deciding the general election date. The current Chief Justice, Umar Ata Bandial, is unlikely to address this issue and will likely pass it on to his successor, Qazi Faez Isa. Even if Justice Isa takes up the case on the day of his oath, September 17, the election cannot be held within the 90-day period due to the Election Commission’s claim that it requires at least 54 days to prepare. It is also noteworthy that Qazi Isa has consistently aligned with Nawaz Sharif in the past. Nawaz Sharif’s party and the military establishment of Pakistan are currently on the same page. This has raised doubts about whether Qazi Isa will even be willing to hold elections anytime soon.

All in all, the November 6 date proposed by President Alvi is merely a suggestion, and he has acknowledged that the Election Commission has the final say in the matter, despite the constitution’s strict requirement for elections to be held within a specified period. It is evident that this period will have elapsed by the time the establishment and its allies are prepared to hold a rigged election. It is a grave misconception to believe that Alvi has ‘taken a stand’ for the constitution, as he remains under the influence of the establishment, which has turned Pakistan’s political landscape into a circus. His letter reinforces the reality that Pakistan is effectively under martial law.

The situation in Gilgit-Baltistan has also demonstrated to the establishment that if fair elections are conducted, PTI will likely secure a majority this time. PTI candidate Khurshid Khan triumphed in the by-election for Gilgit-Baltistan Legislative Assembly’s seat, GBLA-13 Astore-1. Despite his substantial victory, the Election Commission of Pakistan, also under the establishment’s influence, has failed to issue an official notification regarding the by-poll’s results. It is worth noting that Khurshid Khan is the father of Khalid Khurshid, the former Chief Minister who was forcibly removed from his seat by the country’s establishment. PTI leaders and workers in Gilgit Baltistan are protesting against this situation, but the Pakistani media has turned a blind eye, seemingly for obvious reasons, with no media outlets reporting on the matter.

The outcome of the by-poll has sent a clear message to the establishment. Despite its best efforts to keep PTI out and PMLN in, PTI enjoys significant public support. This is something the establishment finds unacceptable as the upcoming election draws near. If they could not secure even one seat despite their full efforts, how could they hope to maintain their position in the 272 directly elected seats of the National Assembly?

In this context, it is crucial to examine the actions and statements of two political parties, the Pakistan Muslim League-N and the Pakistan Peoples’ Party, which played a major role in aiding the establishment in ousting Imran Khan.

PMLN has announced that Nawaz Sharif, the leader of PMLN and former Prime Minister, will return to Pakistan on October 21. Nawaz Sharif had gone into exile after being disqualified for failing to declare assets exceeding his income. He left the country four years ago, claiming he would return in four weeks after ‘medical’ treatment, but was often seen enjoying his time in London. Now, he will be welcomed warmly, as he is under the protection of the establishment. Ishaq Dar, a close relative of Nawaz Sharif and the former Finance Minister famous for artificially manipulating the value of the rupee against the dollar, has also confirmed that PMLN’s candidate for the office of Prime Minister will be Nawaz Sharif. It is no secret that the current Chief of Army Staff of Pakistan, General Asim Munir, was handpicked by Nawaz Sharif himself.

On the other hand, PPP Chairman Bilawal Zardari has initiated his election campaign. It appears that PPP is attempting to craft an image of Bilawal as an assertive, constitution-abiding leader no longer under the control of his father, Asif Ali Zardari, who is the President of PPP. Bilawal has also been advocating for provincial autonomy and improved relations between provinces and federal institutions, historically controlled by the establishment. Bilawal’s team is strategically trying to deceive the public while also signaling to the establishment that if the PPP isn’t given its rightful share in Pakistani politics, it could pose challenges to the power center.

Both the Nawaz and Bilawal camps are seeking a deal with the establishment, while Asim Munir is also exploring options that could secure his extension as the Chief of Army Staff. Nawaz, Bilawal, and Munir are also contemplating their next moves concerning Imran Khan.

What is clear is that Nawaz, Bilawal, and Munir will have to let the Election Commission of Pakistan hold elections at some point, but that point is not going to be within the constitutional framework of Pakistan. The constitutional abrogation is nothing new for the PMLN, PPP, or military establishment, but these entities are well aware of the fact that until and unless elections are completely rigged, the PTI will win. What remains to be seen now is the extent to which the establishment will go to destroy the integrity of Pakistan’s constitution and its institutions.


Taut Bataut – is a researcher and writer that publishes on South Asian geopolitics, exclusively for the online magazine  “New Eastern Outlook”.

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