Polls schedule within 10 days
28 January, 2013
LAHORE: Pakistan Awami Tehreek (PAT) chief Tahirul Qadri and the government team have agreed to announce the date of the national and provincial assemblies' dissolution and general elections within the next 7-10 days.
The consensus decision was announced at a news conference jointly addressed by Qadri and Information Minister Qamar Zaman Kaira following a meeting of the government's team with the PAT leader. PML-Q chief Chaudhry Shujaat Hussain, PPP's Amin Fahim, MQM's Farooq Sattar, Khursheed Shah, Babar Ghauri, Abbas Afridi, Pervez Elahi and Mushahid Hussain Syed were also present on the occasion.
Addressing the media, Qadri said that assemblies will be dissolved before March 16 following which elections will be held within 90 days, whereas 30 days will be given to the election commission for the scrutiny of the candidates. According to Qadri, the coalition and PAT will hold consultations over the caretaker prime minister and chief ministers to reach a consensus. Following this, the government and opposition will hold talks about the caretaker setup.
He added that only those candidates who are declared eligible to contest elections will be allowed to conduct election campaigns. Regarding concerns related to the legal status of his demands, the cleric said that the Islamabad Long March Declaration will be given legal cover before the assemblies are dissolved. Both sides agreed that 30 days will be allocated for the scrutiny of candidates under articles 62 and 63 of the constitution. He said no candidate would start his election campaign before getting clearance from the election commission on his eligibility.
Qadri said that the two sides were in disagreement over the legality of the election commission and freezing of funds available to the prime minister and chief ministers, as these may be misused during the election process. The PAT chief demanded that these funds should be used to decrease electricity and food prices by 50 percent. "We have the option and reserve the right to get the current Election Commission of Pakistan null and void, except the chief election commissioner, by approaching the Supreme Court or using our other options," he said.
Commenting on Qadri's reservations, the information minister expressed the hope there would be no dharna (sit-in) again. Qadri clarified that he had no objection to the chief election commissioner, however, claimed that the appointment of other members of the election commission were not made according to the constitution. "According to the constitution, the parliamentary committee should summon the candidates for the election commission's posts in the provinces for a hearing. The four members were confirmed by the parliamentary committee without a hearing," Qadri said.
Kaira said the government was constitutionally bound to not overturn any decision of the parliamentary committee (in references to the legality of the election commission's formation) and that the federal government had no control over the funds of provincial governments. He repeated Qadri's words, and said that the assemblies would be dissolved before the completion of their tenure and elections would be held in 90 days.
The minister said that Qadri will be given the date of assemblies' dissolution in the next 7-10 days. He said that the agreed upon formula would be implemented regarding formation of the caretaker government. The government, he added, cannot act against constitution regarding the election commission, and the decision of parliamentary committee cannot be reverted. However, he said consultation will continue with PAT on formation of caretaker government.
Kaira said that discretionary funds cannot be withheld and parliament could not be stopped from legislation till the last day. He said that for the first time in the history government had given funds to the opposition parliamentarians, and the government at federal level has already reduced prime minister's discretionary funds, but it cannot interfere in provinces' affairs. He said that legal cover will be provided to the Islamabad Long March Declaration and Qadri will be informed by 31st of this month about the next date of talks.
The information minister said a consensus would be developed between the coalition government and the PAT on nominations for the caretaker prime minister and chief ministers. However, consensus on the issue of dissolution of the election commission cannot be evolved in the dialogue.