Election Watch Update - Feb 16

Retired justices Nasir Aslam Zahid and Ajmal Mian have reportedly been finalized as nominees for caretaker prime minister by the PML-N. Zahid resigned from the Supreme Court because he refused to take an oath under the Provisional Constitutional Order after the military overthrew the Nawaz Sharif government in 1999. Zahid is invested in providing legal assistance to prisoners, particularly women.

President Asif Ali Zardari’s meetings with politicians et al may be up for scrutiny by the Lahore High Court, which has been hearing a petition questioning the president also being head of a political party. The president’s lawyer has said that the PPP, of which Zardari is co-chairperson, is not a political party registered for elections.

Dunya reports that the ECP’s security measures for the elections include keeping the Pak-Afghan border closed and restricting the movement of Afghan refugees for three days to camps. The ECP will also be provided helicopters and vehicles by the federal and provincial governments. Foreign observers will not be allowed to go into tribal areas or in those where insurgencies are ongoing. There will be a ban on arms and the Frontier Corps, military and other law enforcement agencies will be deployed at ‘sensitive’ polling stations.

Nine Punjab Assembly legislators from the Pakistan Peoples Party defected to the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz on Friday, along with two Pakistan Muslim League-Quaid legislators from the National Assembly. The PPP MPAs are: Nishat Ahmed Khan Daha (PP-214 Khanewal-III), Mohammad Jamil Shah (PP-218 Khanewal-VII), Rana Babar Hussain (PP-217 Khanewal-VI) and Abbas Zafar Hiraj (PP 213 Khanewal-II), Rana Munawwar Hussain (PP-36 Sargodha-IX) and Sardar Kamil Gujjar (PP-35 Sargodha-VIII), Javed Alauddin (PP-186 Okara-II), Qaiser Iqbal Sindhu (PP-99 Gujranwala-IX) and Uzma Zahid Bukhari (W-342). Daha, Shah and Hussain had announced their resignations from the PPP in December. Bukhari’s husband, a former PPP MPA, also joined the PML-N. The two PML-Q legislators who joined the PML-N are Dewan Syed Ashiq Hussain Bukhari (NA-153 Multan-VI) and Pir Muhammad Aslam Bodla (NA-158 Khanewal-III).

The Federal Board of Revenue has asked the Election Commission of Pakistan to revise nomination papers for candidates so details of assets and liabilities can be included which the FBR will then verify.

The Supreme Court has ordered the government to hold free and fair elections in Balochistan.

141 of 329 transgender residents of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa have been included in the electoral roll, and the ECP hopes to include everyone by the time of the elections.

The PML-Q has decided to hold internal polls after the ECP advised political parties that they would not be eligible to contest elections without doing so.

Commentary:

Babar Sattar analyses the legal standing and impact of the Supreme Court’s dismissal of Dr Tahir-ul-Qadri’s petition on the constitution of the ECP. – The News