Pakistan President Alvi slammed for allegedly pressuring Election Commission to announce poll dates

Pakistan Defence Minister Khawaja Asif criticised the president for "interfering" in the electoral watchdog’s affairs

February 19, 2023 02:13 pm | Updated 03:47 pm IST - Islamabad

Pakistan’s President Arif Alvi. File

Pakistan’s President Arif Alvi. File | Photo Credit: AFP

Pakistan President Arif Alvi has come under scathing attack from ministers of the ruling coalition for allegedly acting on former premier Imran Khan’s advice to put pressure on the country’s electoral watchdog to announce poll dates for provincial assemblies in Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa and Punjab.

President Alvi, who is from Khan’s Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) party, on Saturday invited Pakistan’s Chief Election Commissioner (CEC) Sikandar Sultan Raja for an urgent meeting on February 20 to discuss poll dates for the two assemblies.

The letter was written after the president did not receive a response from the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) on his previous letter written on February 8. In the second letter, the president expressed his displeasure over the “apathy and inaction” on the part of the electoral watchdog.

Also Read | Pakistan court cancels bail of ex-PM Imran Khan in Election Commission protest case

In separate statements, the interior, defence and law ministers criticised the president and reminded him of his constitutional position.

“Arif Alvi should act as [the] president of Pakistan. You should not act as Imran Khan’s spokesperson,” Interior Minister Rana Sanaullah was quoted as saying by The Express Tribune newspaper.

“The president has nothing to do with announcing the election date,” he said.

Mr. Sanaullah accused the president of interfering in the constitutional authority of the ECP, claiming that Mr. Khan was trying to exert pressure on the commission through the office of the president, the report said.

Defence Minister Khawaja Asif also criticised the president for "interfering" in the electoral watchdog’s affairs.

“Mr. Arif Alvi, stay within your constitutional limits,” Mr. Asif tweeted.

“Don't do politics. If not [for] your own, think about the honour of your position,” he added.

Mr. Asif alleged that Mr. Alvi “occupied” the position of the president as a result of the “selection” held in the 2018 general elections — a tacit reference to the PML-N’s claim that those polls were rigged by the ‘powerful circles’, the report said.

Law and Justice Minister Azam Nazeer Tarar reminded the president that the Constitution did not authorise him to give dates for the provincial assembly elections.

He said Mr. Alvi should not criticise the ECP on the directives of his “leader”.

The provincial assembly in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa was dissolved January 18 after Governor Haji Ghulam Ali accepted the request for dissolution by Chief Minister Mahmood Khan, who is a leader of Mr. Khan’s PTI party.

The move came days after the assembly in Punjab was dissolved on Mr. Khan’s order. Both Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and Punjab were ruled by the PTI.

The dissolution of the two provincial assemblies is seen as a bid by Mr. Khan to push for early national elections. The former prime minister has been demanding fresh polls ever since he was ousted from the top job through a no confidence motion in April 2022.

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