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Possible Delay in Election Expected Amidst Ongoing Political Crisis in Pakistan

Pakistan’s parliament has officially been disbanded, but the scheduled polls within the next 90 days are likely to face delays. The electoral commission cites the need to redraw electoral boundaries based on updated census data, a process expected to extend over several months.

The recent arrest and subsequent five-year political ban on former Prime Minister Imran Khan, who openly challenged the influential military establishment, have added to the political turmoil. President Arif Alvi’s directive to dissolve the National Assembly has led to the formation of a caretaker government, and outgoing Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif has been given a three-day window to nominate an interim leader.

An Election Commission of Pakistan official informed the BBC that elections will be postponed until the census is completed, a task anticipated to take around four months, potentially pushing the elections into the next year. Sharif has expressed concerns about the nation’s inability to progress without “national unity” and suggested that elections may not occur this year.

Speculation arises that the election delay may stem from the ruling Pakistan Muslim League Nawaz (PML-N) coalition’s lack of confidence in winning, given Imran Khan’s enduring popularity and the economic challenges despite an International Monetary Fund bailout.

Imran Khan’s confrontations with the military have unsettled the establishment, leading to his arrest in May on corruption charges and subsequent nationwide protests. Despite their previous closeness, Khan’s detention seems to have increased his popularity.

Analysts point to a parallel operation of two government systems, with the military seeking more powers to avoid challenges from politicians, activists, and journalists. Recent proposed laws, including amendments to the Official Secrets Act, aim to enhance military and intelligence agencies’ authority, drawing criticism from opposition parties for their hasty passage without adequate discussion.

Senator Mushtaq Ahmed warns that these amendments grant extraordinary powers to intelligence agencies, potentially impacting human rights, individual freedoms, and press freedom. The bills await President Alvi’s approval before becoming law, raising concerns about their potential impact on the increasing number of enforced disappearances and human rights violations in the country.

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