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Time for KP, Punjab polls not ‘suitable’, ECP told

March 11, 2023


ISLAMABAD: Representatives from the Inter-Services Intelligence, the Intelligence Bureau and Counter Terrorism Departments on Friday briefed the Election Commission of Pakistan on security threats and challenges.

Sources privy to the meeting told The News here that all the representatives of intelligence agencies and CTDs unanimously pointed out that the time was not suitable for elections in Punjab and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa in view of the fresh wave of terrorism and intelligence reports, which suggested that more terrorist attacks couldn’t be ruled out.

A day after the Election Commission received a briefing from the ministries of finance and interior vis-à-vis its preparations for the upcoming polls to Punjab Assembly, as well as Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Assembly, Chief Election Commissioner Sikandar Sultan Raja chaired another meeting and agencies briefed the forum on security and terrorism.

In addition to the members and senior officers of the ECP, the meeting was also attended by representatives from the Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI), Intelligence Bureau (IB) and counter-terrorism departments (CTDs) of the two provinces, which reviewed the security scenario and related arrangements to ensure peace during the electoral processes in the two provinces.

During the meeting, a was floated from one of the intelligence agencies’ representatives that the elections might be deferred at least for three to four months while the forces were dealing with terror.

Another representative supported the proposal, citing the presence of armed militants who had sneaked into the country from Afghanistan and were now in Punjab.

They told the ECP that Pakistan was passing through a complex and difficult security situation, which underlines caution and care for public safety. Therefore, they contended that in the given situation, opting for polls in two major provinces could be very risky.

A statement issued by the ECP’s Media Coordination and Outreach Wing said the chief election commissioner presided over an important meeting here, which was attended by the ECP members, commission secretary and representatives of the law-enforcement and sensitive institutions.

The forum was given a briefing on the law and order and security situation in the two provinces. In the end, on behalf of the commission, the CEC thanked all the institutions and said the ECP will be able to take decisions in the light of the briefings.

The two-day-long briefings manifest that an air of uncertainty persists even after the recent Supreme Court’s verdict on the subject. The two provincial assemblies were dissolved on January 14 and January 18, respectively. Under the law, elections are mandated to be held within 90 days after dissolution and in this context, not later than April 13 and April 17 in Punjab and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, respectively.

The president has already fixed April 30 as the polling date for the Punjab Assembly elections. However, there is no clue as to the date of polls for the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa legislature. The Election Commission has invited Governor Ghulam Ali to its meeting on March 14. Their earlier consultations could not make any headway. Immediately, following the apex court decision, the ECP said that it would fulfill its constitutional and legal obligations. The commission also wrote to the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa governor and said it was awaiting his response.

Meanwhile, going against its own earlier decision, the commission has notified returning officers (ROs), district returning officers (DROs) and assistant returning officers (AROs) for the elections. They all have been picked from the bureaucracy. The commission has also appointed Saeed Gul as RO for women and minority seats.