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Not sure elections will be held in January, says Alvi

President Dr Arif Alvi on Wednesday cast doubt on the scheduled timing of general elections, saying that he is not sure that the polls will be held in January as suggested by the Election Commission of Pakistan.

He revealed that when he wrote a letter to the ECP and proposed to resolve the issue amicably, they replied that “it is not necessary”.

The ECP in September had announced that elections would be held in the last week of January 2024 as the delimitation process would be completed by Nov 30, followed by a 54-day election programme period before the general elections.

Apparently, the eagerly awaited announcement cleared the fog of political ambiguity and rekindled hopes for a resurgence of political and economic stability but despite clearing the air about polls’ timing, the ECP did not announce the exact elections date, leaving room for speculation.

In an interview given to a private TV channel today, Alvi reaffirmed his loyalty to his party chief saying that Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) Chairman Imran Khan is still his leader, adding that if he was not in the President's House, he would have been in jail today.

Also read: Poll date remains elusive after Alvi’s climbdown

Several PTI leaders and workers were put behind bars following the May 9 riots that ensued after Imran Khan was arrested the same day. Most of the PTI leaders later disassociated themselves from the former ruling party following a crackdown against it by the law enforcers in response to attacks on military installations including the GHQ in Rawalpindi and Corps Commander’s House in Lahore, also known as Jinnah House on May 9.

President Alvi said that if he had not gone on Hajj pilgrimage, he would not have signed the amendment made in the Election Act 2017 citing it against the Constitution. He said Article 57/1 was amended in the Act and that is why he did not sign it.

Earlier in August, Chief Election Commissioner (CEC) Sikandar Sultan Raja had refused to meet President Alvi to finalise the date for the next general elections, citing recent amendments to the Elections Act 2017.

Raja said that after the Elections Act (Amendment) Bill 2023 was enacted into law, announcing the date for polls was the sole prerogative of the ECP.

Also read: Alvi calls for ‘forgiveness’ ahead of polls

In today’s interview, Alvi clarified that he did not send the reference against Chief Justice of Pakistan (CJP) Justice Qazi Faez Isa but it came from the Prime Minister’s House, adding that later the former prime minister, Imran Khan, also refused sending the reference on his own.

In an apparent reference to former army chief General Bajwa, Khan had said in May that the reference against Justice Isa during his tenure as premier was filed on the orders of an “authority” which was “even superior” to the then DG ISI Lt Gen (retd) Faiz Hameed.

In May 2019, President Arif Alvi, on the advice of former PM Imran Khan, had filed a reference against Justice Isa, who was not the chief justice then.

The reference alleged that the judge had acquired three properties in London on lease in the name of his wife and children between 2011 and 2015, but did not disclose them in his wealth returns.

Later, in a rejoinder to the assertions made by the attorney general for Pakistan, Justice Isa stated that he was not under obligation to provide the money trail for his family's properties, saying his wife and adult children were not his dependents and conducted their own affairs.

He further said that the reference was part of a "witch-hunt" aimed at "silencing judges".

The reference was later quashed by the apex court.

The president in today’s interview said that in the parliamentary system there is a possibility that the government may not complete the term, stressing that Pakistan has come to the path of democracy with great difficulties.

Explaining the reason for not leaving his post despite the crackdown against his PTI party, President alvi said that the Constitution dictates that the current president will continue his duties until a new president is elected. “If I leave the post, it will be inappropriate for Pakistan,” he remarked.