Pakistan will hold delayed national elections on February 8 next year, the election commission said Thursday, as the country grapples with overlapping political, economic and security crises.
The vote is set to take place without leading politician and former prime minister Imran Khan, who was barred from contesting polls after being convicted of graft and held in custody over leaking state secrets.
"It was unanimously decided that the election will be held on Thursday, February 8," the Election Commission Pakistan (ECP) said in a statement, after its members met with President Arif Alvi.
The president's office confirmed the date in a statement.
Polls were supposed to have taken place within 90 days of parliament's dissolution but the ECP said it needed time to redraw constituency boundaries following the latest census.
The announcement comes after the Supreme Court on Thursday ordered the commission and the president to agree a date before the next hearing on Friday, in response to several challenges about the delay.
Behind any election in Pakistan lurks the military, which has staged at least three successful coups since the country was forged from the partition of India in 1947.
Pakistan has struggled through months of political chaos, with Khan waging a campaign of defiance against the powerful military after being ousted from power last year.
It was met with a widespread crackdown of his Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) party.
The former international cricket star says the cases against him are politically motivated.
- Election concerns remain -
With Khan out of favour with the establishment, three-time former prime minister Nawaz Sharif returned from self-imposed exile last month to lead his Pakistan Muslim League (Nawaz) to polls.
He left the country four years ago to seek medical treatment in the United Kingdom, part way through a jail sentence for graft, for which he has been granted bail since returning.
"At least it will end the uncertainty over the holding of elections," said political analyst Hasan Askari in Islamabad.
"But the question still to be answered is the fate of PTI leaders who have been imprisoned. Will they stay incarcerated during the election? If the present policies of arresting leaders of one party continues, it may not be a fair election."
The most pressing issue for voters is a biting economic downturn, with Pakistanis struggling through a record devaluation of the rupee and soaring inflation.
On Thursday, a team from the International Monetary Fund arrived in Islamabad to discuss the next tranche of a loan that helped rescue the country from near-default.
Pakistan has also witnessed a dramatic spike in militant attacks, mainly in its border regions with Afghanistan since the Taliban returned to power in Kabul in 2021.
Islamabad ordered hundreds of thousands of Afghans it says are living illegally in the country to leave or face deportation for the "welfare and security" of Pakistan.
A caretaker government has been running the South Asian country since parliament was dissolved on August 9.