Dissolution of assemblies | By Hafiz Ahsaan Ahmad


Dissolution of assemblies

IT is the first time in the constitutional history of Pakistan, two Provincial Assemblies of Punjab and KP have been dissolved by the respective Chief Ministers before completion of their fixed five-year constitutional term, but the National Assembly and two other Provincial Assemblies of Sindh and Balochistan are intact and the governments are working there.

The time and mode for election of a Provincial Assembly has also been described under Article 224(2) of the Constitution, that if a Provincial Assembly is dissolved before expiry of its five years term by the respective Chief Minister, the election would be conducted by Election Commission of Pakistan within 90 days and the results thereof would also be announced within next 14 days of the holding day of such conclusion of election.

According to Article 224 of the Constitution, the period starts for the day of election from the day when the Assembly has been dissolved by the Governor on the advice of the Chief Minister and this period is mandatory for all purposes and especially for the Election Day.

It is the constitutional and legal responsibility of the Election Commission of Pakistan to ensure that the election of the respective Assembly must be held within 90 days of such constitutional period.

Article 105 (3) of the Constitution also stipulates that where the Governor dissolves the Provincial Assembly, notwithstanding anything contained in clause (1) he shall appoint a date, not later than ninety days from the date of dissolution, for the holding of an election to the Assembly and to appoint a caretaker Cabinet.

Under Sub-Section (1) of Section 57 of the Election Act, 2017 consultation with Election Commission of Pakistan is required for the fixation of poll date, and then accordingly the election programme would be announced.

There should be no doubt in any prudent mind that when the Constitution describes something for holding with specified days, then no deviation could be made at all, and if the constitutional provision has not been followed, that would be a clear constitutional violation and such defiance could be challenged before the Superior Courts through invoking constitutional jurisdiction as judicial review.

There are bright chances that the Court would intervene for tracking in the Constitution and can issue directions to adhere to such constitutional provisions for holding the election within 90 days.

It is the constitutional responsibility of Election Commission under Article 219 of the Constitution and Election Act, 2017 to make all arrangements for holding a free, fair and transparent election whenever such a situation arises either the assemblies complete their constitutional term or being dissolved earlier their fixed term by the leader of the House, so primarily the Election Commission of Pakistan is bound and legally responsible for a free and transparent election in the country within constitutional period.

As now the Election Commission has proposed the dates for holding of elections to respective Governors of Punjab and KP, then it is the prime responsibility of these two Governors to immediately respond to the letters of Election Commission positively to avoid and further constitutional breakdown in the country which is not in the interest of all and especially for the political parties and democracy in Pakistan.

—The writer is practicing Advocate of Supreme Court. He has earlier served as Chairman Customs, Excise and Sales Tax Appellate Tribunal, Senior Advisor Federal and Tax Ombudsman.