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Photo Source: The Express Tribune

Pakistan Reader# 590, 3 May 2023

Political Breakthrough or False Dawn?



Will the deal to have simultaneous elections for the national and provincial assemblies go through

D. Suba Chandran

What next? Will the deal to have simultaneous elections for the national and provincial assemblies go through, or will it fall apart?
 
Finally, some light at the end of the political tunnel in Pakistan. In the meeting yesterday (02 May 2023), the government and the PTI agreed to hold elections on the same day for the national assembly and the four provincial assemblies.
 
The big difference between the two (government and the PTI) has been in holding elections. The PTI was adamant that the elections for the two provincial assemblies – Punjab and KP be held immediately, without delay. The Supreme Court has also sided with the PTI’s position – citing the constitutional requirement to hold elections within 90 days of the dissolution. The government was also equally adamant about not holding elections for the two assemblies; it refused to commit to a date. The government was insisting on holding the elections later, preferably during the last quarter of the year, simultaneously for the national and provincial assemblies on the same day. When the Supreme Court ordered the Election Commission to conduct elections, the government refused to allocate the necessary resources.
 
The PTI and the government had three rounds of negotiations during the last one week; while the first two rounds could not reach a breakthrough, yesterday, both parties have reached an agreement – to hold the elections simultaneously for the provincial and national assemblies.
 
What next? Will the deal go through, or will it fall apart? Imran Khan is known for his U-turns; he may withdraw from the agreement reached yesterday by his negotiators. The PTI wants to hold the elections as early as possible. If the government does not give an early date, Imran Khan may walk out of the agreement. Second, he is also in a disadvantageous position; he has asked the provincial governments that were led by his party – in KP and Punjab to resign. He has also asked the members of the PTI to resign from the Parliament. What will be his strategy? The PTI members may want to return to the Parliament, but can their government be installed in Punjab and KP?
 
The ruling coalition parties, especially the PML-N and one of the PDM members – JUI-F, are equally adamant about not yielding to Imran Khan. The PPP prefers to negotiate; however, it would not favour an early election in Sindh, where the party is ruling now. The PTI has agreed to hold elections for both assemblies; will the government decide to hold the elections earlier?
 
The decision on the date of the elections will be the deal breaker. The government may find it unreasonable if the PTI insists on an earlier date. Similarly, if the government suggest a date in the last quarter, the PTI may consider it unreasonable. Second, the government wants more time to “do something” or “be seen doing something” before the elections; the PTI would not want to give that space to the PML-N. For Imran Khan, an early election will be beneficial.
 

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