Understanding the Dissolution of the National Assembly in Pakistan and its Aftermath

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With the tenure of the PML-N-led coalition drawing to a close, it is essential to grasp the implications of the dissolution of the National Assembly and what happens next in Pakistan’s political landscape. In this article, we will explain the process, its constitutional significance, and shed light on the role of the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) and the interim government.

What does the Dissolution of the National Assembly Entail?

The dissolution of the National Assembly refers to the official termination of its five-year term, as outlined in Article 52 of the Constitution. This dissolution paves the way for new elections and allows citizens to exercise their right to vote and elect a new government. The Prime Minister may also recommend the early dissolution of the assembly, as stated in Article 58 of the Constitution. It is worth noting that the Senate, the upper house of the Parliament, remains unaffected by the dissolution of the National Assembly.

Process of Dissolution

A joint session of the Parliament is expected to convene on the 9th of August, following which the Prime Minister is expected to write to the President, initiating the dissolution process. If the President fails to sign the dissolution advice, the assembly will automatically stand dissolved on the 11th of August.

Role of the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP)

Once the National Assembly is dissolved, the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) takes charge of organizing and conducting elections. As per Article 224 of the Constitution, the ECP must hold general elections within 60 days if the assembly has completed its full term, or within 90 days in case of early dissolution. The ECP is responsible for ensuring fair elections and has the authority to halt or declare the polls void in case of any major irregularities.

Interim Government and its Responsibilities

Following the dissolution of the assembly and before the fresh elections, an interim or caretaker government is appointed. The caretaker government’s primary role is to maintain a conducive environment for free and fair elections. It also carries out routine government functions and ensures that the country does not come to a standstill during the transition period. The caretaker government must remain impartial and refrain from interfering in the election process. Any major policy decisions are generally avoided, and appointments are made on an acting or short-term basis.

Appointment of the Interim Setup

The President or Governor, in the case of a provincial assembly, appoints the caretaker cabinet. However, this decision is made in consultation with the outgoing Prime Minister and the leader of the opposition in the outgoing National Assembly. If there is a disagreement, a committee is formed by the speaker of the National Assembly or provincial assembly to finalize the caretaker candidates. The committee consists of members from both the government and opposition benches, and they have three days to reach a consensus. If the committee fails to decide, the nominations are forwarded to the ECP, which then has two days to make the final decision.

Duration of the Caretaker Government

According to the Constitution, a general election must be held within 60 days of the National Assembly’s term expiring, or within 90 days if there is an early dissolution. While recent amendments to the Elections Act 2017 have empowered the caretaker government to make decisions regarding existing bilateral or multilateral agreements and projects, they do not extend the 90-day timeframe. Therefore, the caretaker government’s tenure cannot be extended beyond this timeframe.

In conclusion, the dissolution of the National Assembly in Pakistan marks the end of its term and allows for fresh elections. The Election Commission of Pakistan plays a crucial role in organizing fair elections, while the caretaker government ensures the smooth functioning of the government until a new government is elected. It is important to adhere to the constitutional provisions and respect the democratic process throughout this transition period.

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