Pakistan is in the midst of a constitutional crisis after former prime minister Imran Khan called for snap elections, leading to a Supreme Court order to conduct two provincial polls. The government has resisted the order, citing insufficient funding due to an ongoing economic crisis and its priority of securing an International Monetary Fund bailout package. Chief Justice Umar Ata Bandial has scheduled the election dates, causing the government to pass a bill limiting the chief justice’s powers, which has since been suspended. The situation has set the stage for a confrontation between the government and CJP Bandial, and a hearing is scheduled for May 2. The top judge has directed the central bank to allocate funds to the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) to conduct the polls, as the government declined to provide the necessary finances.
The government’s reluctance to hold early elections is in contrast to Khan’s desire to demonstrate his support base, while also facing terrorism and corruption charges, which he claims are politically motivated. Khan and his allies dissolved the assemblies in January, and the Constitution stipulates that elections must be held within 90 days. However, delays by the government led to CJP Bandial’s intervention and formation of a bench of judges to hear the case. A five-member panel of justices directed the president to announce the polling date for both provinces, but the government stated that there was insufficient funding, leading to a postponement to October 8.
The fate of the upcoming elections depends on the ruling coalition in parliament. Recently, the government passed a non-binding motion prohibiting funds to the election commission and conducting local elections in May. The PDM-led government introduced a money bill in parliament to allocate funds for the elections, as per the Supreme Court’s order, but the bill was rejected by the standing committees of parliament. Government officials have suggested the possibility of imposing emergency laws to delay the elections, citing concerns over rising terrorism or an economic crisis.
The election commission is under pressure from Khan and his party to comply with the court order, and they may take legal action against the government. With national elections expected to take place in October, Khan seems to be attempting to repair his relationship with the establishment and improve ties with the United States, with whom he had a falling out after accusing them of collaborating to remove him from power — a charge they deny.
Overall, the situation in Pakistan is complex and multifaceted, with various political players jostling for power and influence. The upcoming elections will be a crucial moment for the country’s future, and it remains to be seen how the crisis will be resolved.