ISLAMABAD - Refusing to budge to the government’s pressure, the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) has made its already taken decision final on keeping the polling date for presidential elections unchanged and returned a related summary to the law ministry.

The decision came on Monday during a meeting between the Chief Election Commissioner Justice (Retd) Fakhruddin G Ebrahim and Justice (Retd) Shahzad Akbar Khan, Justice (Retd) Riaz Kayani, Justice (Retd) Roshan Essani and Justice (Retd) Fazl-ur-Rehman, the four ECP members.

The CEC, who is in Karachi, chaired the meeting through teleconferencing along with Roshan Essani. The commission upheld its unofficial decision taken earlier on Saturday that the government’s demand to have the presidential election date of August 6 changed did not have reasonable grounds and it was not appropriate to fix a new polling date at this point after the presidential election schedule was well announced.

Following the final consultations with his aides, the CEC ordered returning the summary to the ministry of law, justice and human rights with the reported comments intimating the ministry about the ECP decision and urging it to comply with the same.

Sharing relevant details, Secretary ECP Ishtiak Ahmad Khan said that the commission was in agreement over its decision not to change the presidential election date and the government had been informed about this development. “The government had contacted the ECP with the request to change the presidential election schedule due to the reason that some legislators were intending to perform religious rituals in the last days of Ramazan. The commission could not see a reasonable justification to change the election schedule. The ECP decision to hold the presidential election on August 6 is final and the government has been informed to this effect,” he told this correspondent.

Earlier on Saturday, the CEC Fakhruddin Ebrahim had told The Nation that the ECP had decided to reject the government’s summary on the presidential election polling date issue and the commission would hold a final meeting in this regard on Monday. “Our decision is pretty clear. There has to be a solid justification for making a request to change the polling date. In this particular case, I’m afraid, any justifiable rationale is missing. We’ll have a final word and then our decision would be sent to the them (government).” he had said.

Justice (Retd) Riaz Kayani had reportedly suggested that commission should formally meet to discuss the related constitutional provisions before officially returning the summary on the presidential polling date.

Moreover, the poll authority on Monday issued relevant details on the requirements for filing the nomination papers for the presidential elections. Requesting anonymity, an ECP insider said that these details were prepared last week but were withheld after the government approached the ECP on the polling date issue. But after the commission’s final decision on the matter came on Monday, the electoral body issued the withheld details, the official said.

The ECP media release said that the candidates for presidential election will have to submit along with their nomination papers, the “original extract from the electoral rolls prepared for the general elections 2013 signed by the registration officer/district election commissioner concerned.” In this regard, the ECP cited related provisions of the Constitution of Pakistan and Presidential Election Rules 1988 which provide that the nomination papers for every presidential poll candidate shall be signed by a proposer and a seconder both of whom shall be the members of Parliament or a provincial assembly.  

Every presidential election contestant is also required to submit a declaration affirming that he/she is Muslim and fulfils the qualifications specified in Article 62 of the constitution and is not subjected to any ‘disqualification’ specified in the Article 63. The candidates are also required to submit copies of their national identity cards along with the declarations as proof of their ages mentioned in the declaration forms.

Last Tuesday, the ECP had announced presidential election schedule by fixing August 6 as the polling date. Three days later, on Friday, the Ministry of Law, Justice and Human Rights had written a letter and moved a related summary to the ECP requesting it to change the presidential election polling date owing to ‘religious engagements’ of lawmakers in last ten days of Ramazan.