Pakistan’s electoral system has become a farce with the powers that be finding newer and newer excuses to delay elections and keeping a caretaker government in power for as long as possible. This does not bode well for Pakistani democracy.
The Election Commission of Pakistan insists that general elections will be held by late January or mid-February 2024 once constituencies have been delimited afresh under the census notified by the National Assembly before it was dissolved.
Earlier this year, the ECP had said it would hold elections in October. However, it clearly seems to be in no mood to stick to that timeline now. As recently as July, the ECP had ruled out any delay in the general elections, promising it was ready to hold polls within 60 or 90 days, depending on whenever the National Assembly was dissolved.
In the same press conference, the ECP had ruled out the possibility of fresh delimitations, saying that elections would be held under the previous census and delimitation. Within a month, the ECP abruptly changed its stance. Its volte-face was immediately protested by the PPP, which later revealed that it had been assured that the notification of the census would have no bearing on election dates.
As an editorial in Dawn points out, “given these precedents, how can the ECP be trusted? As long as it continues to believe that no law or court order can compel it to do its constitutional duty within stipulated time frames, it may find it more convenient to continue delaying the exercise on one pretext or the other.”