Pakistan faces political uncertainty as questions arise over holding elections in Punjab and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa alone

Although the ruling coalition has been loath to engage with Imran Khan, one view is that an effort should be made to see if a mutually acceptable date for general elections can be agreed upon

Rana Banerji March 14, 2023 14:30:44 IST

A journalist poses with a cell phone displaying Imran Khan, former prime minister of Pakistan. Reuters

On 13 March, Imran Khan’s lawyers once again sought exemptions from his personal appearances in lower courts in Islamabad, on grounds of security. In the Toshakhana case, his lawyer, Khwaja Harris raised a maintainability question, on grounds of a time bar. A still incomplete contempt proceeding in the threat against the lady magistrate (Zeba Chaudhry) was also being held. Earlier both courts issued warrants of arrest, for his production in court, in the Toshakhana case by 18 March and in the other, before 29 March. The Islamabad police reached Lahore to execute one of the warrants of arrest. However, Imran had already left his Zaman Park house to hold an election rally.

However, as per the latest development, an Islamabad court on Tuesday suspended the non-bailable arrest warrants issued against the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) chairman until 16 March in a case where he had allegedly threatened the woman judge.

A new phase in the country’s turbulent politics opened with the `suo motu’ Supreme Court (SC) ruling (1 March, 2023) directing that election to the Punjab and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KP) assemblies be held within the constitutionally stipulated 90-day period. A sliver of `an escape route’ was provided in the ruling, qualifying that If elections could not be held within 90 days, then the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) should propose a date that “deviates to the barest minimum” from that deadline.

The assemblies were dissolved in January,`23. Caretaker administrations were installed in the two provinces, but the governors refrained from fixing a poll date. When President Arif Alvi unilaterally announced an election date (9 April), the government condemned this action while the ECP held back from doing anything.

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