The Senate of the Pakistani Parliament on Friday passed a resolution seeking a delay in the February 8 general elections, just over a month before the highly-awaited run-off, due to security reasons. The resolution was moved by independent Senator Dilawar Khan and was opposed by two – interim caretaker Information Minister Murtaza Solangi and Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz’s (PML-N) Afnan Ullah Khan.
The Upper House of the Pakistan Parliament has a total of 100 members. However, the resolution moved by Dilawar Khan was done during a session with only 14 lawmakers in attendance, reported Dawn. Dilawar highlighted that various political parties had reservations due to difficulties in ensuring participation in “cold areas” during the electoral process.
“The vote turnout in colder areas remains notably high during the moderate weather conditions. January and February are recognised as the coldest months in the majority of the areas in Balochistan and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa,” he said during the session in the Senate.
Concerns over security of politicians
The independent Senator expressed “great concern” on the recent attempts on the lives of Jamiat Ulema-e-Islam-Fazl (JUI-F) chief Fazlur Rehman, former lawmaker Mohsin Dawar, and other political figures. “The Ministry of Interior has conveyed serious threats to the lives of prominent politicians increasing the challenges faced by political parties in exercising their right to a free and fair election,” he added.
Dilawar asserted that the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) was bound to conduct free and fair polls contingent upon inclusivity and ensuring the participation of all regional people. He also took note of the alarming spike in attacks on security forces and citizens, particularly in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and Balochistan, saying that these could have a potential impact on the safety of citizens and the democratic electoral process.
The election schedule may be postponed to facilitate the “effective participation of people from all areas of Pakistan and belonging to all political shades”, he demanded, adding that the delay aims to uphold constitutional rights to political participation.
“The process of filing nomination papers and scrutiny shall continue with the revised extended timelines. The ECP shall engage proactively with relevant stakeholders, political parties and communities to address their concerns and foster an environment conducive to free and fair elections,” he said.
However, PML-N Senator Afnanullah said that the security situation in Pakistan was indeed not good but highlighted that the conditions were worse in 2008 and 2013 yet elections were held. “Will you delay elections on the pretext of weather and security?” he asked.
Meanwhile, independent Senator Hidayatullah Khan said that he had registered nine first information reports in the past two weeks against threats he had been receiving. “The provincial candidate of the JUI-F escaped a bomb blast yesterday. We need to look at the situation with an open mind,” he stressed.
On the other hand, Balochistan Awami Party (BAP) Senator Manzoor Ahmed said that there was no denying that Pakistan’s security and economic situation has worsened over time. He supported the resolution and remarked that delaying the elections for 6-8 months would not be problematic.
Pakistan’s general elections
The general elections in Pakistan are scheduled for February 8, with three-time former PM Nawaz Sharif and incarcerated ex-chairman of Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) Imran Khan in the fray. While the PML-N remains confident that Nawaz will return as PM, many polls show that Imran and his PTI enjoy widespread popularity.
As many as 3,139 women (over 11 per cent) of the total 28,626 candidates have filed nomination papers for the 2024 Pakistan general elections across the country. According to the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP), as many as 471 women, including Maryam Nawaz Sharif, filed nomination papers to contest elections on general seats of the National Assembly.
Notably, the Pakistan National Assembly had 342 seats– 272 of which are directly elected, 60 are reserved for women and 10 for religious minorities. According to the country’s constitution, at least 70 seats reserved for women and religious minorities are allocated to the political parties as per their proportional representation.
After fresh delimitation, the National Assembly (NA) would consist of 336 seats, including 266 general seats, 60 seats reserved for women, and 10 for non-Muslims, a decrease of six seats overall.