LAHORE (Reuters) – The chief minister of Pakistan’s most populous province, an ally of former Prime Minister Imran Khan, has called for the local assembly to be dissolved, in a bid to force the federal government into holding snap general elections.
Punjab Chief Minister Parvez Elahi, a coalition partner of Khan’s Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaaf (PTI) political party, advised the provincial governor to dissolve the local assembly late on Thursday, according to a document seen by Reuters.
The governor, Baligh Ur Rehman, told reporters that he would take a decision soon. Legal experts say Rehman has 48 hours to decide. If he does not, the assembly will be considered legally void, unless the dissolution order is contested in court.
“It is a difficult decision to take,” Rehman said. “We will, God willing, take a decision soon.”
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Punjab is home to more than half of Pakistan’s population of more than 220 million, and is one of two provinces ruled by the PTI. PTI members are also meeting on Friday to discuss dissolving the local assembly of the other province, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, the party’s Information Secretary Fawad Chaudhry said.
Pakistan is due to hold general elections later this year, but Khan has been calling for elections since he was ousted in April after losing a parliamentary vote of confidence. The 70-year-old former international cricketer has also led nationwide protests against his successor, Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif.
Local elections in both provinces, in addition to general elections later this year, would be an expensive and logistically complicated exercise for a government heavily dependent on foreign aid after devastating floods last year.
Political analysts said this pressure played into Khan’s demands, although any local assembly elections did not constitutionally trigger a national election.
“We want elections. No more, no less,” PTI’s Chaudhry told reporters when asked about Punjab’s decision to dissolve its legislative assembly.
The federal government was considering contesting the decision to dissolve the Punjab assembly in court, a government spokesman said.
(Writing by Asif Shahzad and Miral Fahmy; Editing by Frances Kerry)
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