Pak Senate passes resolution to delay Feb 8 general elections

ISLAMABAD: Pakistan’s Senate passed a resolution on Friday seeking a delay in upcoming polls, scheduled for February 8, due to security concerns and harsh weather.
The non-binding resolution was moved by an Independent senator, Dilawar Khan, during a session with only 15 lawmakers in attendance in a House of 100 members. The lawmaker, considered loyal to the military, said the interior (home) ministry has “conveyed serious threats to the lives of prominent politicians, increasing the challenges faced by political parties in exercising their right to a free and fair election”.
The senator added that the intelligence agencies have also warned of threats of terrorist attacks on election rallies in northwestern Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and southwestern Balochistan provinces.
The resolution pointed out that a number of political parties had voiced concerns about how difficult it would be to guarantee voter turnout in colder regions during the election.
It stated that conducting elections without addressing legitimate concerns, facilitating opportunities for election campaigns and guaranteeing the safety of politicians and citizens would amount to violation of fundamental rights.
Therefore, the resolution said, the elections slated for February 8, 2024 should be postponed to facilitate the effective participation of people from all areas of Pakistan and belonging to all political shades.
Following the vote, the Senate chairman adjourned the session indefinitely. While one senator voted against the resolution, Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) and Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) abstained.
In Pakistan’s 75-year history, a total of 11 general elections have been held; of these, three (1985, 1997 and 2008) took place in February.
The country was scheduled to hold general elections in November following the dissolution of the National Assembly in August last year. But the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) said it needed more time to redraw constituencies based on the country’s population census, which concluded last year.
A day earlier, jailed Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI) chief Imran Khan had expressed fears that the election scheduled for February 8 may not take place at all, and even if it did, such polls would be a “disaster and a farce since PTI is being denied its basic right to campaign”.
Khan has been in jail since August where he has been tried under the pre-Partition Official Secrets Act for allegedly leaking state secrets. His party, meanwhile, has faced a severe crackdown from the previous government led by Shehbaz Sharif, with many PTI leaders deserting the party, allegedly under pressure from the military.
Recently, Khan’s nomination papers for the February 8 polls were rejected by the electoral watchdog on account of his conviction in a graft case. The papers of hundreds of other PTI candidates were also rejected by the election commission. Khan’s party has also been deprived of its cricket bat election symbol.

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