President Alvi has formally requested guidance from the Ministry of Law regarding the ECP assertion that the president lacks the authority to determine the date for elections.

In a recent development, President Arif Alvi has taken the step of writing a formal letter to the Ministry of Law and Justice in Islamabad. The purpose of this letter is to request “advice” in response to a letter from the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP). The ECP’s communication asserts that the president no longer holds the authority to determine the date for elections.

This action was confirmed in an official statement released by the President’s Office via the platform X, formerly known as Twitter. The statement disclosed that President Alvi has corresponded with the secretary of the Ministry of Law and Justice regarding the ECP’s response to his earlier request for a meeting to deliberate and decide on the election date.

In response to President Arif Alvi’s letter regarding the election date, Caretaker Law Minister Ahmad Irfan Aslam Ahmed Irfan Aslam has stated that they have not yet received the letter from the president. He mentioned that they will provide a response in accordance with the applicable laws once they receive the letter.

The Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) has also issued a response to President Alvi’s letter, in which he invited Chief Election Commissioner (CEC) Sikandar Sultan Raja to discuss the election date. The ECP’s response indicates that, following amendments to election laws, the president no longer holds the authority to fix the date for elections.

The CEC, in his response to President Alvi, pointed out that the National Assembly was dissolved under Article 58(1) of the Constitution on the advice of the prime minister on August 9, 2023. Moreover, he noted that amendments to Section 57(1) of the Elections Act, 2017, have granted increased authority to the ECP regarding the scheduling of elections. This means that, prior to the amendment, the president was required to consult the commission before setting an election date. However, after the amendment, the commission has the power to announce election dates independently.

The CEC clarified that the president can only fix an election date if the National Assembly is dissolved under Article 58(2) read with Article 48(5) of the Constitution. According to the ECP, when the assembly is dissolved on the advice of the prime minister or by the passage of time as specified in Article 58(1) of the Constitution, the authority to appoint election dates exclusively belongs to the commission.

The CEC also emphasized the importance of fresh delimitation after the approval of the 2023 census results, as this is a crucial legal step in the electoral process. He mentioned that the ECP is taking its responsibility to conduct the general election seriously and is in the process of inviting major political parties to discuss the electoral roadmap. Therefore, the ECP considers the proposed meeting on this matter to be of little consequence.

This situation highlights a legal and constitutional debate regarding the authority to set election dates in Pakistan and the implications of recent amendments to election laws.