LAHORE - The election schedule for July 25 general polls is a departure from the May 2013 election plan in terms of days given for filing nomination papers and appeals against decisions of returning officers.

It is also for the first time that the schedule has been announced before completion of tenures of the National Assembly and two provincial legislatures which ceased to exist Thursday midnight.

Apparently, for fulfilling the commitment of giving at least 25 days for electioneering, the Election Commission of Pakistan announced schedule in a haste that will put political parties under stress of finalising names of candidates in lesser time. Although all mainstream parties have already completed the process of gathering applications from interested candidates all over the country, they will face difficulties in selecting suitable persons due to two less days as compared to previous general polls. The ECP has given two extra days for filing appeals against the decisions of returning officers as compared to previous schedules. This will, however, facilitate candidates in properly preparing cases for submitting to election tribunals.

Former ECP secretary Kanwar Dilshad questioned wisdom of people at the helm of affairs of the top poll body in dealing with key issues. “Usually, schedule is issued at least four days after completion of terms of legislatures. It happened in last two elections. What is the logic behind announcement of schedule before completion of tenure of the National Assembly? Like the previous general polls, the schedule should have been announced on June 4,” he said, adding this would have enabled the ECP to take on board the caretakers. He said the decision of giving less days for filing nomination papers was also not justified.

“The ECP should have continued the practice of giving at least seven days for filing nomination papers. Deviation from the past practice will put political parties under stress. They will have to expedite the process of awarding tickets to candidates,” he said. He, however, welcomed the move of giving extra days to candidates for filing appeals against the decisions of returning officers. “The candidates will now get enough time for properly preparing cases before filing them before the tribunals,” he said.

To a question that the ECP should have announced schedule early to fulfil the commitment of giving at least 25 days for electioneering, he said it was not justified as all leading political parties had been carrying out campaign for last one year. “Even 20 days were enough for election campaign. Political parties are already running campaign by holding rallies and through the media. Reducing days for filing nomination papers and issuing schedule before placement of caretaker set-ups for prolonging election campaign is not justified. It reflects administrative, legal and judicial wisdom of top officers in the ECP,” Kanwar Dilshad said.