Pakistan Senate passes resolution seeking delay in Feb 8 elections

‘Unconstitutional’ move, says political parties

Pakistan Senate Representative Image

Pakistan's Senate on Friday approved a non-binding resolution seeking a delay in the general election, citing cold weather and security concerns, increasing the political uncertainty ahead of the planned polls on February 8.

The resolution, tabled by independent Senator Dilawar Khan, received overwhelming support in the upper house of Pakistan's Parliament but was slammed as "unconstitutional" by major political parties. The Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) also rejected the Senate's resolution and clarified that elections will be held on February 8, 2024.

It was passed with only 14 lawmakers out of the Senate's 100 members in attendance.

Information Minister Murtaza Solangi and Senator Afnanullah Khan of three-time Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif's Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) party opposed the move.

Senator Gurdeep Singh of jailed former prime minister Imran Khan's Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) party and Pakistan Peoples Party's (PPP) Behramand Tangi abstained from voting. The Senate chairman adjourned the session indefinitely after the vote, Geo News reported.

Introducing the resolution, Senator Dilawar Khan said that most areas of the country were currently experiencing harsh cold weather, so participation in elections in those areas was unmanageable.

Raising concerns about the security situation, he said the law and order situation was not good and added that politicians were being targeted, including an attack on Jamiat Ulama-e-Islam Fazl (JUI-F) chief Fazlur Rehman.

"Even security forces are being attacked in Balochistan and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (provinces)," he added.

The resolution was passed despite clear orders by the Supreme Court to the ECP to stick to its announcement to hold the elections on February 8.

Meanwhile, the ECP rejected the Senate's resolution and clarified that elections 2024 will be held on February 8, Samaa TV reported.

In a statement, the electoral watchdog said that nothing except the Supreme Court's orders could alter the election schedule and added that the next general elections will be held on February 8.

"The Senate resolution holds no value," the report said, citing the ECP's statement.

Major political parties also rejected the non-binding resolution, stating that further deferring the electoral process would be "unconstitutional".

Rejecting the resolution immediately after its passing, PML-N Senator Afnanullah Khan acknowledged that the security situation in the country was not good; however, he said the conditions were worse in 2008 and 2013, yet elections were held in both years.

According to the Dawn newspaper, he dismissed the pretexts' as boot polish and said, Will you delay elections on the pretext of weather and security?. The PML-N Senator also claimed that some individuals were pushing for election delays for personal gain.

PTI leader Sher Afzal Marwat told Geo News that the Constitution was "violated" in the Senate.

"The resolution for delay in general elections is an attack on the Constitution," he said, adding that there is no single clause in the charter for putting off the polls.

Addressing a press conference after the resolution's approval, PPP Senator Sherry Rehman said that the party has a clear stance that the February 8 elections should not be put off, according to the report.

"We absolutely do not support the delay in elections," she said, asserting that the PPP didn't favour the Senate resolution.

"This is rebellion against the Constitution. It was a [pre-planned] move and a conspiracy because the polls must be held on time," said PPP Senator Shahadat Awan.

He reiterated that the resolution was tabled under a "plan" as the matter was not part of Friday's Order of the Day. "Those who can see their defeat [in elections] want to delay the polls," he added.

The move by the Senate is expected to increase political and economic instability in the country.

The Pakistan Stock Exchange reacted negatively to the resolution, and the share market immediately fell by more than 800 points.


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