The premier has said that elections will be held only on the basis of the 2023 digital census, hinting towards a delay between eight months to one year. ..writes Hamza Ameer
As the Pakistan government is readying to bring in an interim setup with a mandate to hold elections within 90 days, Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif has hinted towards a delay in the polls, creating a rift within his coalition partners.
The visible rift, as seen on various social media posts, is exposing the lack of talks and closed door consultations between Sharif’s Pakistan Muslim League–Nawaz (PML-N)) party and its major coalition partnerPakistan People Party (PPP),
The premier has said that elections will be held only on the basis of the 2023 digital census, hinting towards a delay between eight months to one year.
“We have to hold the elections on the basis of the new census… When the census has been conducted, the polls should be held on its basis unless there is an obstacle that cannot be overcome. But I don’t see any such hurdle,” he said during an interview.
Sharif’s comments have sparked a widespread debate as the PPP has made it clear that it would not endorse any decision that results delaying the polls.
“The party has already taken a position on the subject that fresh delimitation would cause delay in holding general elections and given this reason, the party has opposed it,” senior PPP leader Nawaz Muhammad Yousaf Talpur said.
“Fresh delimitations would in theory require four months, but in reality, it might take as long as eight months or an year,” said PPP information secretary Faisal Kareem Kundi.
Meanwhile, the Mutahida Qaumi Movement–Pakistan (MQM-P) has also opposed the decision of going to the polls based on the old census.
“We have already taken the matter up with the Prime Minister. We believe that the polls should only be held as per the new delimitations, which is only possible after the digital census,” MQM-P senior leader Mustafa Kamal said.
“If the government goes into polls as per old census, it would deprive millions of their voting rights.”
The open statements on public fora and social media platforms by political leaders further exposes the detachment and lack of communication between the coalition parties.
“The PML-N leadership would want to delay the elections so that it can use the time to campaign and do a much needed damage control to gain the confidence of its voters before the elections,” said senior political analyst Javed Siddique.
“On the other hand, the PPP would be desirous to make full use of the deteriorated loopholes and openings in Punjab, after PTI’s meltdown and PML-N’s weak political position.
“PPP would not want to allow PML-N time to campaign for a longer period of time and re-strengthen its political position in Punjab. This way, it would be able to make its comeback in Punjab and become the driving force in the formation of the next government as it would have its stronghold in Sindh province, its solid political alliance in Balochistan and a considerable penetration in Punjab and the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa,” the analyst added.
“The ongoing rumours about the caretaker setup being brought in for a longer stretch of time that would function beyond 90 days, and with financial empowerment of the interim setup seen as part of that scheme, the recent revelations by the premier only provide credence to suspicions of inordinate delay in elections,” said political analyst Rameez Khan.