Local council polls to be held in KP before Punjab, Sindh
ISLAMABAD: The Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) is geared up to hold local council elections in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KP) in June with the consent of the KP government if all goes well.
“Regardless of what any top Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) leader claims, local polls are not possible before June,” a senior ECP official told The News.
“The KP government knows this fact very well. KP Chief Minister Pervez Khattak was explained this when he held a meeting with the ECP early this month,” he said.
The official said that the chief minister realised that availability of the biometric system was not possible in such a short time. Then, Khattak agreed that the elections should be organised without this system.
According to the official, the KP would be the first among the provinces where the local polls will be held before Punjab and Sindh. Balochistan took the lead long time ago and organised the elections. He said that the tender for getting paper for ballots has been issued. The Awami National Party (ANP) has told the ECP that it has challenged in a court of law delimitation of constituencies for local councils, done by the KP government. The Supreme Court has held the delimitation of constituencies done by the KP government valid.
The official said that the printing of ballot papers would take a long time than what was required for the general elections. In the case of local polls, ballots for every union council would have to be printed, he said. He pointed out that the Printing Press of Pakistan, which prints ballot papers, has 1952 model machines, which do the job very slowly. He said at least one month was needed to print the ballot papers for the KP. The ECP is holding the local polls for the first time. The grass-root polls will be held in Punjab and Sindh later and it is not known when the polls will be organised in these provinces.
For years, the ruling political parties have been vacillating to hold local elections despite repeated intervention of the Supreme Court. While disagreeing on most issues, they have been unanimous in constantly dodging judicial orders on one pretext or the other. However, the apex court continues to push them to hold the polls as early as possible.
The unique mess created and complicated by different factors specifically the policy of the provincial governments has made it impossible to hold polls. The ECP has also been confused and indeterminate about organising elections. Never in the history of Pakistan have any such elections been marred by intense controversy. The provincial governments kept committing to the court different polling dates but at the same time persisted with backing out after some time.
The Pakistan Institute of Legislative Development & Transparency (Pildat) said in its recent public opinion on quality of democracy in Pakistan covering the first year of federal & provincial governments June 2013-May 2014 that 71 % of the population stated that holding local government elections is somewhat to very important. Only 27 % believed that holding these polls is not very important.
Sixty-five % deponents said that a locally elected government is somewhat to very important in solving the problems faced by ordinary Pakistanis. Only 32% of the population asserted that local governments are not important in solving the problems faced by the common people.
The overwhelming majority, 85%, believed that it was critical that the ECP’s functions need to be reformed and reconfigured while only 10% did not consider these changes necessary.
In the context of the need for reforms and changes in the ECP, 30% deponents said that the next elections will be conducted in a much better fashion by the ECP. However, 26% deponents have serious doubts about the ECP and believed that it will be worse in the next polls. Thirty-seven % of all Pakistanis believed that the ECP’s performance in holding free and fair polls will be no different in the future.
The ECP also seems to be withdrawing from its core goal set under its Second Strategic Plan (2014-18) in which it had promised to introduce electronic voting machines (EVMs) and biometric machines in the next general elections.
The plan unveiled by ECP in June last had set some ambitious goals, asking political parties to make legislation for introducing EVMs and biometric machines for an effective control on district returning officers, returning officers and all other relevant staff associated with the electoral process.
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