Sun, 04 Jun 2023

Islamabad [Pakistan], March 29 (ANI): Pakistan's political turmoil has delivered more twists this week as key provincial elections were postponed in defiance of a court order. This came following clashes between ousted Prime Minister Imran Khan's supporters and the police, Nikkei Asia reported.

The unrest came as Pakistan faces delays in accessing crucial assistance from the International Monetary Fund, further exacerbating the instability.

The Election Commission of Pakistan on Wednesday announced it was postponing polls in the province of Punjab, which had been scheduled for April 30. It declared that the elections would be held on October 8 instead -- around the time a national election is also due, citing a lack of immediately available security personnel and funding, according to Nikkei Asia.

The decision by the commission contravened a Supreme Court ruling on March 1 that elections should be held in Punjab, as well as Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, within 90 days of the dissolution of their legislatures in January.

According to Nikkei Asia, Khan had orchestrated the dissolutions of the provincial assemblies as part of his strategy to force an early general election, convinced that he will win his job back after losing it in a no-confidence vote last April. Khan called the postponement a violation of the constitution that marked the end of the rule of law.

Chief Justice Umar Ata Bandial on Wednesday hinted that the Supreme Court could intervene against abuse of authority and any attempt to avoid "transparent elections." On Thursday, Khan's Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) party said it would take the matter to the top court.

While this has the makings of a new legal battle, the timeline remains anything but clear.

The coalition government led by Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif has firmly resisted Khan's electoral demands, insisting the general vote should be held in October. At a hastily convened joint session of Parliament on Wednesday, Interior Minister Rana Sanaullah demanded that federal and any provincial elections should be held at the same time, according to Nikkie Asia.

The minister appealed to the chief justice to review the ruling on Punjab and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, warning that split polls would sow chaos.

The joint session did not pass any resolution, but another sitting is slated for Monday, when the government is expected to submit a motion to delay the elections in the two provinces. A resolution passed by a joint legislative session carries more weight because it represents the will of both houses. The government apparently hopes this will be enough to stall the ballots and avoid court intervention.

The uncertainty over the elections comes as questions swirl over the legal fate of Khan himself. The former prime minister is dogged by dozens of charges over allegations ranging from improper handling of state gifts to threatening a judge, which he claims are politically motivated, according to Nikkei Asia. (ANI)

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