Pakistan election body starts preparation for general elections

Islamabad: Pakistan, currently in the throes of a major political as well as economic crisis, has started preparations for the general elections with a meeting of the election body chaired by its chief reviewing the arrangements made so far to organise polls in a fair and free manner later this year.

Chief Election Commissioner Sikandar Sultan Raja was on Monday briefed by the officials of the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP), a constitutional body tasked to organise elections in the country, according to an official statement.

The current National Assembly will complete its five-year term on August 12 and the fresh general election must be conducted within 60 days as laid down in the Constitution of Pakistan.

Raja was informed about the preparations for the upcoming general elections and the arrangements made so far, showing that the ECP had taken several preliminary measures to organise polls in a fair and free manner.

“The necessary election material and paper for ballot paper have been procured and a list of polling stations has been prepared,” he was told.

The ECP has already announced July 13 as the last date for registration, exclusion and validation of voters in the voters’ list for the elections and the ECP already started an awareness campaign for voters to get enrolled.

The elections will also be held for the four provincial assemblies. The assemblies of Punjab and Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa were dissolved in January by Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf chief Imran Khan to force early elections but his move could not succeed.

The development comes as Khan is struggling to keep his flocks together after more than 100 senior leaders quit the party following widespread violence after his arrest by paramilitary personnel on May 9. He was later released on bail.

Over 20 military installations and state buildings including military headquarters in Rawalpindi were damaged or torched in the violent protests that followed Khan’s arrest.

Khan is facing over 140 cases. The cases mostly relate to terrorism, inciting the public to violence, arson attacks, blasphemy, attempted murder, corruption and fraud. He was ousted from power in April last year after losing a no-confidence vote in his leadership, which he alleged was part of a US-led conspiracy targeting him for his independent foreign policy on Russia, China and Afghanistan. The charges have been denied by the US.

The election preparation comes as cash-strapped Pakistan is grappling with high external debt, a weak local currency and dwindling foreign exchange reserves.

The inflation level rose by a whopping 36.4 per cent in the year in April, driven mainly by food prices. This is the highest in South Asia, and up from 35.4 per cent in March, according to the country’s statistics bureau.