Pakistan’s Senate approves resolution to delay February 8 general elections

 Pakistan’s Senate has passed a non-binding resolution demanding a delay in the national general elections, scheduled on February 8.

The upper house of the country’s parliament on Friday approved the resolution at a session attended by just 14 of the 97 senators, with one member voting against the resolution.

The resolution, moved by independent legislator Dilawar Khan, sought to push back the election date, citing the “prevailing security conditions” in the country as well as the cold weather.

In his resolution, Khan said Pakistan’s interior ministry has “conveyed serious threats to [the] lives of prominent politicians” and highlighted an increasing number of security incidents, mainly in the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and Balochistan provinces.

He further said the harsh winter makes it difficult for the political parties to campaign, which might also affect voter turnout in the polls.

“The elections scheduled for 8th February 2024 may be postponed to facilitate the effective participation of people from all areas of Pakistan and belonging to all political shades in the electioneering process,” the resolution said.

Of 11 previous general elections in Pakistan’s 75-year history, three (1985, 1997 and 2008) took place in the month of February.

Pakistan was scheduled to hold the general elections in November last year after its lower house of parliament was dissolved in August.

A caretaker government under Prime Minister Anwaar ul-Haq Kakar was then set up to oversee the vote.

But the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) said it needed more time to redraw constituencies based on the country’s population census, which concluded last year.

The South Asian country of 241 million people has been in political and economic turmoil for years.

Former Prime Minister Imran Khan, leader of the main opposition party, Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI), has been in jail since August where he is being tried for allegedly leaking state secrets, which is among a slew of charges he denies.

His party, meanwhile, faced a severe crackdown from the previous government, led by Shehbaz Sharif, with many PTI leaders deserting the party, allegedly under the pressure of the powerful military, which has directly ruled over the country for nearly half of its independent history through coups.

Recently, Khan’s nomination papers for the February 8 elections were rejected by the election commission on account of his conviction in a corruption case. The papers of thousands of other opposition candidates were also rejected by the commission.

Khan’s party is also fighting a legal battle to save its election symbol – a cricket bat – from a possible ban.

Meanwhile, the security situation in the country has also deteriorated, with 2023 witnessing more than 600 attacks by armed groups, an increase of more than 60 percent from 2022, according to the Pakistan Institute for Conflict and Security Studies (PICSS), an Islamabad-based research organisation.

The PICSS data says almost 93 percent of those attacks took place in the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and Balochistan provinces.

Related Articles

Back to top button