- Voting for federal, provincial legislatures to be held on the same day
- Khursheed Shah says four names for caretaker PM will be forwarded to parliamentary committee next week
ISLAMABAD: President Mamnoon Hussain on Saturday approved holding the General Elections 2018 on July 25 this year for both the Centre and provinces.
The Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) had on Monday proposed July 25-27 as possible dates for the upcoming elections and forwarded a summary in this regard to President Mamnoon Hussain, requesting him to set one of the proposed dates as the day of the polls according to Elections Act 2017, Section 57(1).
According to Clause 224 of the Constitution, elections for the national and provincial assemblies are to be held within 60 days following the day the term of the assemblies expires.
Meanwhile, the ECP has reviewed preparations for the general elections, directing provincial chief secretaries to ensure the security of returning officers and polling staff.
While district returning officers (DROs) and returning officers (ROs) have been appointed mostly from the lower judiciary, the assistant returning officers (AROs) have been selected from the civil bureaucracy – mainly the district administration group officers.
Per the polling scheme announced by the ECP, as many as 86,436 polling stations will be set up for the elections, including 48,667 in Punjab and 18,647 in Sindh. In FATA and KP, 14,655 polling stations will be established and 4,467 in Balochistan.
The ECP also published the final electoral rolls ahead of polls, showing a 23 per cent increase in the total number of voters as compared to the 2013 elections when the total number of voters stood at 86.19 million.
According to the rolls, 105.96 million voters will be able to cast their vote in the upcoming elections. Of these, 59.22 million are male and 46.73 million are females, with the gender gap between male and female rising to around 12.5 million.
According to the figures, 55.9 per cent of the registered voters in Pakistan are males while only 44.1 per cent are females.
Punjab tops the list with the largest number of voters with a total of 60.67 million voters – 23 per cent increase from 2013, of which 33.68 million are male and 26.99 million are female. A total of 22.39 million voters, an 18 per cent increase over 2013, are registered in Sindh, according to the figures proved by the ECP, of which 12.44 million are male and 9.95 million are female.
Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KP), the third largest province of the country, is home to 15.32 million registered voters – 25 per cent higher than 2013 – including 8.71 million male and 6.61 million female voters. Balochistan has a total of 4.3 million registered voters — 29 per cent more than 2013 — including 2.49 million male and 1.81 million female voters.
In the Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA), 2.51 million voters would be able to exercise their right of voting while 0.77 million were registered with the ECP from the capital territory.
Earlier, the Senate passed the 31st amendment to the constitution to merge FATA with the province of KP. With the passage of the amendment, the seats for the KP Assembly will increase to 147 from the current 126. These include 18 general seats, four seats for women and one seat for non-Muslims in respect to FATA.
Moreover, following the merger with KP, FATA will lose the eight berths in the Upper House.
The announcement for the general elections, however, comes in the backdrop of failing talks between the government and opposition over the caretaker setup, which will be responsible for holding these elections since the tenure of incumbent governments, both at the Centre and provinces, will expire on May 31.
At the Centre, a parliamentary committee will now decide the name of the caretaker prime minister as Prime Minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi and Leader of the Opposition Khursheed Shah failed to reach a consensus on the matter.
Shah on Saturday said that four names will be presented to the committee for considering the slot of the caretaker prime minister.
He said that due to the failure in reaching consensus for the name of caretaker PM, the matter will now go before the parliamentary committee, with Sherry Rehman and Syed Naveed Qamar representing the PPP in the committee.
He added that one nominee each from PTI and MQM will also be included in the parliamentary committee.
As the talks failed without a consequence between the government and opposition, a parliamentary committee will now be constituted by NA Speaker Sardar Ayaz Sadiq to choose the caretaker prime minister through a majority vote. The committee will have no more than 48 hours to appoint a caretaker prime minister, failing which the constitution empowers the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) to choose the interim premier.
During days of deliberations between the government and the opposition, PPP had nominated the names of former Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB) chairman Zaka Ashraf and former foreign secretary Jalil Abbas Jillani for the caretaker post. The contenders for the post also included the names of former chief justice of Pakistan (CJP) Tassaduq Hussain Jillani and former State Bank of Pakistan (SBP) governor Ishrat Hussain.
Among others, names of Pakistan’s Permanent Representative to the UN Maleeha Lodhi, and former ambassador Abdullah Hussain Haroon were also under consideration for the caretaker slot.
In KP on the other hand, the PTI government and opposition reached an agreement on the name of Manzoor Afridi as the caretaker chief minister.
In Punjab, Chief Minister Shehbaz Sharif and Opposition Leader Mian Mehmoodur Rasheed have reportedly decided on two names for the caretaker CM, and a final name for the slot is expected to be announced on Monday.
Deadlock, however, remains in Sindh where PPP heads the government and MQM is in the opposition, and in Balochistan where Balochistan Awami Party’s (BAP) Abdul Quddus Bizenjo holds the portfolio of the chief minister.