ECP rebuffs Sindh’s plea to defer LG polls

October 05, 2022

ECP directed the provincial government to ensure police deployment

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Sign board outsideElection Commission of Pakistan. —File Photo

ISLAMABAD: The Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) on Tuesday turned down a request from the Sindh government to again postpone the local government elections in Karachi Division for three months.

The decision in this connection was taken in a meeting of the commission held here with Chief Election Commissioner Sikandar Sultan Raja in the chair. The ECP laid emphasis on the fact that it was the responsibility of provincial government and law enforcement agencies to provide security and ensure law and order during elections.

Therefore, the ECP directed the provincial government to ensure police deployment from the districts where the situation was better during the election in the port city. Moreover, it also made it clear that holding local government elections on time was its constitutional obligation.

The meeting was informed that the commission was in contact with the defence and interior ministries to seek the deployment of army or Rangers at sensitive polling stations in Karachi Division.

It may be recalled that the second phase of local bodies polls in Sindh was originally scheduled to take place in July, but postponed due to unprecedented rains and flood situation. The poll exercise is now fixed for Oct 23 in Karachi Division.

Earlier, ECP Secretary Omar Hamid Khan in his briefing said the Sindh government had requested the ECP to once again postpone the second phase of LG elections in Karachi Division due to a shortage of police personnel to maintain law and order during polling as a reason.

In a letter to the ECP, the Sindh government had highlighted the shortage of police forces due to rescue and relief work in the flood-hit districts of the province. It mentioned that the police force was not available for security as they were busy with relief and rehabilitation activities.

“The enormous shortfall of manpower required for phase two of local government elections cannot be met without the deployment of a police force from interior Sindh, which is unavailable for three months due to flood relief activities,” the Sindh government had told the commission.

The meeting was informed that only 25 percent of the required funds had been received for the LG elections, and hence the lack of funds was creating trouble in the conduct of the polls.

The meeting was also informed that Rs600 million sought for holding by-polls in 12 national and provincial assembly constituencies scheduled for Oct 27 were yet to be received. The commission expressed alarm and feared that the holding of polls would not be possible if the funds were not timely received.

The meeting was told that letters had been written to the ministries of Defence and Interior seeking the deployment of the army, rangers, and frontier corps outside sensitive polling stations during the upcoming by-polls in nine national and three provincial assembly constituencies scheduled to take place on Oct 16.

The constituencies are; NA-22 (Mardan-III), NA-24 (Charsadda-II), NA-31 (Peshawar-V), NA-45 (Kurram-I), NA-108 (Faisalabad-VIII), NA-118 (Nankana Sahib-II), NA-237 (Malir-II), NA-239 (Korangi Karachi-I), NA-157 (Multan-IV), PP-139 (Sheikhupura-V), PP-241 (Bahawalnagar-V) and PP-209 (Khanewal-VII).

A day earlier, the ECP secretary, in a letter to the defence secretary, Gen (retd) Hamid Zaman Khan, had pointed out that the present atmosphere in the 12 constituencies was politically charged. The letter said certain political leaders were raising the emotions of their workers or supporters.

The letter said political narratives from many sides had vitiated the atmosphere considerably, causing increased polarisation, thus highly placing the incoming election at a risk premium. The presence of militant elements in certain areas had increased this risk manifold, especially in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa.

“ECP’s experiences with the recently held by-elections in NA-240 Korangi-Karachi-II, PP-167 Lahore, and Sindh Local Government Elections Phase-I show that due to resource constraints, police were unable to control the scale of violence, resulting in violence spiraling out of control.

“In all by-elections and Sindh phase-1 local government elections, effective deterrence was provided by Pakistan Army troops in standby/QRF mode primarily with the selective deployment of Pakistan Rangers.

“Keeping in view law and order in the areas/constituencies, it is reiterated that personnel of the Pakistan Rangers Punjab, Sindh and Frontier Corps (FC) in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa at least 1x3 at each sensitive polling station be deployed in static mode and enhanced QRF deployment of Pakistan Army be ensured for smooth conduct of the by-elections. A similar letter was also sent to the interior secretary.

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