ISLAMABAD: The Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP), rejecting the decision of the Sindh government, decided to stick to completing the second phase of local body elections in the province on January 15.
ECP members decided on this during a meeting chaired by Chief Election Commissioner Sikander Sultan Raja at its headquarters in Islamabad today (Friday).
The second round of LG elections was scheduled to take place on July 24 last year, but the Sindh government had excused itself from holding the polls over the lack of security and police presence due to the flooding. The polls were then scheduled for August 28 and October 23 but were delayed back then as well.
After the ECP's order, Sindh Information Minister Sharjeel Memon said police and Rangers will be deployed at polling stations, while polls will be held in line with the instructions.
"The Pakistan Army has excused itself, so for ensuring law and order situation, we will deploy Rangers and police," the information minister said in a statement.
In a decision seen as a boon for the newly united Muttahida Qaumi Movement-Pakistan (MQM-P) and a bane for the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) and the Jamaat-e-Islami (JI), the Pakistan Peoples Party's (PPP) Sindh government had postponed late Thursday night the second phase of the local government elections in all the seven districts of Karachi division and the Hyderabad and Dadu districts of the Hyderabad division.
Addressing a press conference after an important meeting chaired by Chief Minister Murad Ali Shah at CM House, Information Minister Sharjeel Inam Memon had said that the LG polls were being put off in Karachi division, and Hyderabad and Dadu districts in Hyderabad division.
However, he had said that polls would be held as per schedule on January 15 in other districts of Hyderabad division – Tando Mohmmad Khan, Tando Allahyar, Matiari, Thatta, Jamshoro, Badin and Sujawal.
Memon had said the decision to postpone the polls in Karachi and Hyderabad was taken as the MQM-P, which is an ally of the PPP in the federal government, had reservations about delimitations of constitutions carried out under Section 10-A on the recommendation of a sub-committee of the provincial government.
He had said the Sindh cabinet had withdrawn the notification under which the delimitations had been carried out. He said the sub-committee would meet again for deliberations for new delimitations for the LG elections.
Explaining the decision regarding Dadu, he had said it was not possible for the government to conduct the polls in the flood-affected district. He said Mehar and other areas in that district were still under floodwater and people could not step out of their homes to cast votes there.
To a query, the information minister had denied that the decision to put off the LG polls had been taken after the MQM-P had threatened to take to the streets. He promised that the Muttahida’s reservations would be addressed at the government level.
Following the announcement, Jamaat-e-Islami (JI) had announced that the party will hold a sit-in outside the ECP’s office in Karachi today. However, the party later called off its protest.
"There will be a sit-in today at 3pm outside the Election Commission's Sindh office,” JI Karachi President Hafiz Naeem ur Rehman had announced in a press conference.
The JI leader had alleged that the PPP-led Sindh government was depriving the people of their constitutional right. The elections have been called off in fear of the people's mandate, he claimed.
Naeem had also said that there is no legal provision for the Sindh government to put off the elections based "on a letter." He also urged Chief Election Commissioner (CEC) Sikander Sultan Raja to take “suo motu” notice.
“How is it possible that two days before the polls, the elections are postponed via a notification,” asked Rehman. He was also of the view that ECP should not delay the polls.
“Election Commission should return the letter to the Sindh government, take suo motu notice and take action against them,” urged the JI leader.
Earlier, the PTI and JI had lambasted the Sindh government for its late-night announcement of delaying the local government elections. In a statement, the opposition leader in the Sindh Assembly, PTI’s Haleem Adil Sheikh, had announced that the PTI would challenge the Sindh government’s move in courts.
He had said the fear of defeat in Karachi and Hyderabad had paralysed the Pakistan Democratic Movement.
The PTI leader had gone on to say that the PPP and MQM-P were the two sides of the same coin and the Muttahida acted like a B team of the PPP to build pressure so that the polls could be deferred once again. He had said the faces of leaders of the PPP and MQM-P bore the stamp of rejection and their politics had ended.
JI spokesperson Zahid Askari had told The News the JI would adopt every legal, constitutional and democratic course against the latest delay in the local government elections.
After JI’s press conference, PTI leader Ali Zaidi, in a separate media talk, had also announced that the party will be holding a protest rally outside the Sindh Assembly at 4pm today.
“Citizens of Karachi should reach there and record their protests,” urged Zaidi in a hurriedly called press conference, he held alongside former governor Imran Ismail.
Zaidi said that a “circus” was held at the Chief Minister House between the Muttahida Qaumi Movement-Pakistan (MQM-P) and PPP.
It is unclear whether the PTI will go ahead with its protest or not after the ECP decision.
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