New Delhi: Pakistan’s Supreme Court has cleared the way for the country’s general elections, scheduled to be held on February 8, 2024, by overturning a lower court order that had stalled the appointment of election officials. The election process will begin on December 19, 2023, when the election returning officer (RO) will issue a public notice inviting nominations from candidates.
The elections will be held for the national parliament as well as the provincial assemblies of Punjab, Sindh, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, and Balochistan. The Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) has also announced that election symbols will be allotted to political candidates on January 13, 2024. The ECP has said that it will ensure free, fair, and transparent elections and that seats will be reserved for women and non-Muslims by the constitution.
However, the elections are likely to be marred by legal controversies, as several prominent politicians are facing disqualification cases in the courts. The most notable among them is former Prime Minister Imran Khan, who was disqualified for five years in the Toshakhana case, which involved the illegal acceptance of luxury vehicles and gifts from foreign dignitaries. Khan has challenged his disqualification in the Lahore High Court (LHC), which issued a notice to the ECP last Friday. However, the hearing was adjourned due to the absence of the commission’s lawyer.
It remains to be seen whether Khan will be able to contest the elections or not, and what impact his absence will have on his party, the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI), which is currently in power. The main opposition parties, the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) and the Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) have also accused the PTI of rigging the previous elections in 2018, and have demanded electoral reforms before the next polls. The political situation in Pakistan is thus tense and uncertain, as the country prepares for its third consecutive democratic transition of power.