ISLAMABAD: Pakistan will hold delayed elections in January next year, the election commission announced today, as the country grapples with overlapping political, economic and security crises.
A caretaker government has been ruling Pakistan since parliament was dissolved on Aug 9, days after the country’s most popular politician, former prime minister Imran Khan, was imprisoned for graft and barred from contesting elections.
Polls were supposed to have taken place within 90 days, but the election commission said it needed more time to redraw constituencies following the latest population census.
“The final list of constituencies will be published on Nov 30. After that, the elections will be held in the last week of January 2024, after a 54-day election programme,” the commission said in a statement.
One political analyst suggested the date may not be set in stone.
“The announcement of a date is a positive and significant sign, however, Pakistani politics is so unstable that one can’t predict what will happen after three months,” Hasan Askari Rizvi told AFP.
“But all the sufferings of the common people due to inflation and price hikes will have a direct bearing – provided all parties are allowed to campaign and contest elections,” he added.
Earlier this month, the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan said it was concerned about the scope for institutions to manipulate the electoral process.
“The delimitation of constituencies must also be completed quickly and efficiently and under no circumstances used as an excuse to delay the elections any further,” it said in a statement.
“Apart from ensuring that free, fair and credible elections take place, the test of the current caretaker government is to see not only whether it will protect and respect people’s right to protest peacefully, but also whether it will respond to the issues that ordinary citizens are mobilising around.”
Khan’s ouster as prime minister in April last year sparked months of political drama, with a defiant campaign against the powerful military culminating in a major crackdown on his Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf party.
The country is struggling through a biting economic downturn, with business leaders crying out for authorities to bring political stability to the cash-strapped nation which has seen a record devaluation of the rupee and soaring inflation.
Pakistan has also witnessed a dramatic spike in militant attacks, mainly in its border regions with Afghanistan, after the Taliban returned to power in 2021.
Analysts say Islamist fighters have been emboldened by the neighbouring insurgency’s success.
The first half of 2023 saw a nearly 80% spike in attacks compared to last year, according to the Pakistan Institute for Conflict and Security Studies.