Monday July 22, 2024

ECP reserves decision on holding LG polls in Sindh

By Mumtaz Alvi
November 16, 2022

ISLAMABAD: The Election Commission of Pakistan Tuesday reserved the decision on holding the repeatedly-delayed local government election in Karachi after hearing arguments from the stakeholders.

Key political parties’ representatives and the Government of Sindh presented their arguments for and against the pending electoral exercise in the mega city before a five-member bench of the Election Commission, headed by Chief Election Commissioner Sikandar Sultan Raja. The PTI was represented by its lawyer, Waseem Akhtar appeared on behalf of MQMP, Hafiz Naeem-ur-Rehman on behalf of Jamaat-e-Islami and Murtaza Wahab represented the PPP. The chief election commissioner said the Rangers or other law enforcement agencies from Punjab can be deployed in Sindh for security during the LG polls.

The Member Election Commission, Ikramullah Khan, inquired under which law the local government law was changed. The Special Secretary, Zafar Iqbal, said the Sindh High Court has reserved the decision on the related hearing. The joint secretary Interior Ministry replied that at present the Civil Armed Forces cannot deploy personnel for the local bodies elections due to floods and the law and order situation. At this, the chief election commissioner said what should they do with the articles of the Constitution that mandate the holding of LG elections. Administrator Karachi Murtaza Wahab said the first phase of local bodies elections in Sindh has been completed but the number of seats is very high for local bodies elections in Karachi. He said as many as 4,900 polling stations have to be set up for the purpose. However, they are ready to hold local bodies elections in Karachi in two phases. The administrator Karachi pointed out that due to floods, local bodies elections were postponed twice, whereas water was still standing in 25 to 30 per cent of places. He added the Sindh government was always prepared to hold the local bodies elections but security was necessary.

ECP Special Secretary Zafar Iqbal said the Election Commission wanted to hold local bodies elections on July 24. But the elections in Karachi and Hyderabad were postponed twice at the request of the provincial government, while the Interior Ministry also excused from deployment of paramilitary forces on October 18. He continued that due to the floods, the local bodies elections in Karachi were postponed on November 1 following the Sindh government’s request.

ECP member Ikramullah Khan said the provincial government could not approve the postponement of the elections under any circumstances. At this, Murtaza Wahab said that according to the law of Sindh, the announcement of local bodies elections is the authority of the Sindh government and the provincial government will announce the local bodies elections in consultation with the Election Commission. Another ECP member Nisar Durrani said that the postponement of the local bodies elections is not a violation of the Constitution. ECP member Babar Hassan Bharwana questioned what are the difficulties for holding the elections, other than the provision of security forces.

The chief election commissioner said that the Election Commission has to hold local bodies elections within 120 days. The provincial governments, he said, never wanted to hold the elections while the Election Commission conducted local bodies elections in difficult circumstances. The CEC referred to the Islamabad High Court order, saying the local bodies elections can be held even on the old law.

At this, Murtaza Wahab said that things are beyond the control of provincial government. The chief election commissioner also pointed out that there is a difference between the approach of the Sindh government in the last meeting and today, previously, it took a different stand in Sindh High Court and had expressed readiness for polls.

The Karachi Administrator said that he did not want any questions to be raised about the conduct of local bodies elections, requesting the postponement of the elections in Karachi for another 90 days.

During the hearing, chief secretary Sindh said difficulties came to the fore due to law and order in Korangi by-elections. He took the stand that 17,000 personnel were needed to be deployed in Karachi, which is not possible due to floods and law and order. He contended that if more time is given for the elections in Karachi, then better preparations can be made. He also recommended postponing the local bodies elections and said that the flood situation could improve in a month and a half.

During the hearing, MQMP leader Waseem Akhtar said that even after two years, local bodies elections could not be held in Karachi, while half the population of Karachi was already reduced in the census.

The PTI representative, Shahab, charged that the Government of Sindh was not serious about holding the LG polls in Karachi and delayed the process for the last 10 months. He sought an announcement of the date for the polls while saying they had no objection to holding the polls after 90 days.

JI’s Hafiz Naeemur Rehman said that the 90 days of the Sindh government will be like the 90 days pledged by former dictator Gen of Zia-ul-Haq for holding elections, which were never held. The Sindh government, he said, also did not want to hold the elections. The chief election commissioner said the elections will be held in any case and the Election Commission will give an order keeping in mind the ground realities.