Bilawal reiterates call for elections within Constitutional limit of 90 days

Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) Chairman Bilawal Bhutto-Zardari interacts with journalists in Karachi on September 8, 2023. — X/@MediaCellPPP
Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) Chairman Bilawal Bhutto-Zardari interacts with journalists in Karachi on September 8, 2023. — X/@MediaCellPPP

Stressing the need for free, fair and timely polls, Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) Chairman Bilawal Bhutto-Zardari on Friday reiterated his demand to hold general elections in the country within the constitutionally mandated period of 90 days.

Bilawal repeated his party’s firm stance on polls days after reports emerged in a section of mainstream media claiming that the PPP would “adjust” its position on elections in 90 days.

On March 5, the PPP chairman’s statement was shared on its official handle X, formerly known as Twitter: “Chairman [of the] Pakistan Peoples Party @BBhuttoZardari has urged that the general elections should be held according to the Constitution, so that the democratic government can solve the problems of the people.”

Referring to the tweet, a local publication claimed that it was the first time in recent weeks that the PPP called for adhering to the Constitution, without referring to the 90-day deadline.

During an interaction with journalists in Karachi today, Bilawal said: “The PPP demands that the elections be held within 90 days.”

The PPP — which had been the most vocal among all parties in calling for elections within three months — demands that elections should be held at the earliest and as per the Constitution, he added.

Bilawal says that the PPP does people-friendly politics and governance. “Our contest is with inflation, unemployment and poverty.”

Without taking the name of the establishment, the PPP’s top leader said that he wanted to give a message to the “puppet makers” that they should stop experimenting on the people of Pakistan.

“Let the people make their decisions,” he added.

Responding to a question about the drive against the PPP, the former foreign minister said that his party responded to the propaganda and character assassinators with “performance”.

Lauding the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP), Bilawal said the electoral watchdog proved its “standard and credibility” before the people by its “performance” during the past four years.

“The ECP proved its performance in Daska [by catching rigging],” he added.

According to an investigation report prepared by Joint Provincial Election Commissioner Saeed Gul, the election officials and other government functionaries “did not play their designated role in a requisite manner [and] they were found puppets in the hands of their unlawful masters”.

The NA-75 Sialkot-IV by-election held in Daska on February 19 was not held in a fair, free, and transparent manner, read the inquiry report. Later, the ECP declared the Daska by-polls null and void and ordered re-election.

He hoped that the ECP would hold free and fair elections within the Constitutional timeframe of 90 days.

‘Ghabrana nahi hai!’

Without naming former prime minister Imran Khan — who is currently incarcerated in Attock jail in the Toshakhana case — Bilawal took a jibe at the chairman of the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI), saying: “Ghabrana nahi hai [don’t panic]”

“I want to say, ghabrana nahi hai to those who are lingering in jail and facing a difficult time.”

The PPP chairman further said, “Those who were imposed on Pakistan attacked the General Headquarters (GHQ) on May 9.”

He added that those who make puppets also have realised that the experiments can’t go further.

It is pertinent to mention here that the Shehbaz Sharif-led previous government dissolved the National Assembly on August 9, while Sindh and Balochistan assemblies were also prematurely dissolved to allow the electoral authority to hold elections in the country within 90 days instead of 60 days if the legislature completed its constitutional tenure.

However, the ECP may not be able to hold the polls within the stipulated time as the Council of Common Interests (CCI), days before the dissolution of the assemblies, approved the 7th Population and Housing Census 2023.

The CCI meeting chaired by then-PM Shehbaz had approved the final results of the census reporting the country’s population at 241.49 million with a growth rate of 2.55%.

The CCI approval made it constitutionally mandatory for the poll watchdog to hold elections following fresh delimitations in the light of the results of the 7th census.

According to Article 51 (5) of the Constitution, the seats of the National Assembly to each province and the federal capital shall be allocated on the basis of population in accordance with the last preceding census officially published.

Subsequently, on August 17, the ECP announced the schedule of new delimitations to be carried out as per the new census approved by the CCI.

As per the schedule, the new delimitation of constituencies nationwide will be notified in December this year.

The ECP schedule showed that fresh delimitation will take nearly four months, meaning the general elections in the country cannot be held within 90 days of the dissolution of the provincial and national assemblies.

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