Pakistan extends deadline for election nominations to Sunday

Reuters :
Pakistan extended a Friday deadline for candidates to file nomination papers for a national election by two days, the election commission said, allowing extra time for former prime ministers Imran Khan and Nawaz Sharif to enter the race.

“The deadline for submission of nomination papers has been extended by two days to facilitate political parties and candidates,” the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) said in a statement on Friday shared by the body’s spokesman.

The ECP said the rest of the schedule, leading to polls on Feb 8, 2024, would remain unchanged.

Khan and Sharif have said they would submit their nominations despite a ban on their participation due to court convictions. Both are awaiting relief from higher courts that would allow them to participate.

Khan, 71, remains in jail facing a number of charges ranging from corruption to leaking state secrets.

His chances of contesting the polls were dealt a blow with a court rejecting a plea to suspend a conviction against him that disqualified him from contesting, but his lawyers have challenged the decision in the Supreme Court.

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In a statement delivered through his lawyer early on Friday, Khan said “coercive and brutal attempts” were being made to oust candidates of his party, Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI), by arresting and harassing them, and snatching their nomination papers ahead of the deadline.

PTI, which won the last national election in 2018 that brought Khan to power for the first time, also said the houses of some of its candidates were raided on Thursday night.

Caretaker Information Minister Murtaza Solangi, the spokesman for the current interim government, tasked with overseeing the polls, did not respond to requests for comment on the allegations.

Khan warned that the lack of free, fair and transparent elections would lead to political instability, which would, in turn, hit the already struggling $350 billion economy.

He said his party’s support for an International Monetary Fund programme was contingent on free and fair elections.

The ECP will accept nomination papers till Sunday, but a final list of candidates who have qualified for participation will be released on January 11 after a scrutiny and appeals process.

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