CONTRARY to the categorical statement made by Defence Minister and PML(N) leader Khawaja Muhammad Asif that general elections would not be delayed and that these would be held within 90 days of the dissolution of the National Assembly on completion of its term in August, head of the ruling alliance (PDM) Maulana Fazlur Rehman has maintained that the alliance leadership would unanimously decide when the next elections will be held. Talking to media in Lahore on Monday, he said that before deciding about the next elections, “we will have to see whether to let the country face a new wave of riots and trouble or stabilize the falling economy to relieve masses of the financial hardships”.
The remarks made by the PDM chief are an early indication that a general election might not be held this year. His logic that the economic situation of the country will have to be taken into consideration before deciding about timing of the elections is meaningful as opening of the IMF window necessarily means more tough decisions that a political government can hardly afford during an election year. Similarly, as pointed out by the Maulana, there are apprehensions of political violence during the election campaign because of the ongoing crackdown against the former ruling party. The government would surely want the campaign against the PTI to take a concrete shape before making a plunge into the electoral process. However, thinking and plans of the government notwithstanding, there are also other stakeholders and it has to be seen what their reaction would be to any attempt to delay the polls. The Supreme Court is already hearing a case relating to elections in Punjab and its final outcome might have repercussions for the general election. Constitutional experts say the government can delay the polls only in case of proclamation of emergency, otherwise it will have to abide by the constitutional requirement of holding elections within 90 days (of dissolution of an assembly). The court might also examine the rationale for an emergency if such a course was adopted by the Government.