“Essential for Pakistan: British High Commissioner Emphasizes the Importance of Fair and Inclusive Elections”

Islamabad: British High Commissioner to Pakistan Jane Marriott emphasized the importance of ensuring that elections in Pakistan are characterized by freedom, credibility, transparency, and inclusivity during her meeting with Chief Election Commissioner (CEC) Sikandar Sultan Raja in Islamabad.

In a post on her social media account, formerly known as Twitter, the British envoy shared details of her meeting with the CEC, which took place at the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) office in the nation’s capital. Marriott expressed the significance of this introductory meeting, noting that she and the CEC concurred on the critical need for Pakistan to witness elections that adhere to the principles of being free, credible, transparent, and inclusive, all in accordance with the country’s legal framework.

This meeting between the UK envoy and CEC Raja comes at a time when Pakistan eagerly awaits the announcement of the date for the upcoming general elections. Currently, the election schedule remains uncertain due to the ongoing issue of constituency delimitation following the digital census conducted earlier this year.

It’s worth noting that this is not the first instance of a foreign diplomat meeting with the ECP chief and expressing their views on the conduct of general elections in Pakistan. In the previous month, United States Ambassador Donald Blome also had a meeting with CEC Raja to reiterate his country’s support for free and fair elections, emphasizing that the United States would work to strengthen its relationship with Pakistan, regardless of the electoral outcome chosen by the Pakistani people. The US embassy’s statement emphasized that the choice of Pakistan’s future leaders ultimately rests with the Pakistani people.

Blome further underscored America’s commitment to supporting transparent elections conducted in accordance with Pakistan’s laws and constitution.

The timing of the elections in Pakistan remains a contentious issue, especially following the dissolution of the National Assembly on August 9 by the government led by Shehbaz Sharif. Additionally, the Sindh and Balochistan assemblies were prematurely dissolved to facilitate the electoral authority in holding elections across the country within 90 days.

According to the legal framework, elections should be held within 60 days if the legislature completes its constitutional term. However, the deadline extends to three months if the assemblies are dissolved prematurely. Furthermore, the general elections in Pakistan are likely to be delayed due to the approval of the 7th Population and Housing Census 2023 by the Council of Common Interest (CCI) shortly before the dissolution of the assemblies. This development has raised concerns from various quarters, including the Pakistan Peoples Party, which was part of the coalition government that endorsed the census.

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