ISLAMABAD — Pakistan’s election oversight body said Thursday that parliamentary elections must be delayed because it needs four months to redraw constituencies to reflect the recently held census.
A delay would likely heighten the political strains in Pakistan, which has seen now opposition leader Imran Khan removed as prime minister by a no-confidence vote by parliament in April 2022 and his imprisonment this year after a graft conviction.
In a statement, the Election Commission of Pakistan said it won’t be able to complete drawing new constituencies before Dec. 14. That means the vote could possibly be delayed at least until February.
The development came a week after President Arif Alvi dissolved parliament at the completion of its five-year term. Usually, that step starts the process of holding elections for a new parliament within 90 days.
But elections could still be held later this year if the caretaker government, which was installed under Premier Anwaar-ul-Haq Kakar this week, decides to go ahead with it under the previous census. Kakar had no immediate comment on the announcement by the election oversight body.
Analysts said the judiciary could also push Kakar’s government to hold the vote on time to meet the constitutional requirement. Under the constitution, a vote was to be held either in October or November.
Kakar’s new Cabinet was sworn in Thursday at the Presidency in the capital, Islamabad. Kakar has chosen former diplomat Jalil Abbas Jilani to head the foreign ministry, and longtime journalist Murtaza Solangi to be the information minister.
Khan’s Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf opposition party is hoping to return to power after what is expected to be a close election.
Khan, a highly popular 70-year-old former cricket star, has been held at the Attock prison in eastern Punjab province since Aug. 6, when he was sentenced to three years in prison by a court after being convicted of concealing assets he amassed by selling state gifts.
A court in Islamabad will take up Khan’s appeal next week, and his legal team is expecting him to be released.
Khan will not be able to run in the election unless his conviction is overturned. Pakistan bars anyone with a criminal conviction of leading a political party, running in elections or holding public office.
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