Saturday April 13, 2024

Punjab, KP polls ‘not possible’ on given dates

ECP has not found even a single federal or provincial entity ready for the polls because of multiple reasons

By Ansar Abbasi
March 16, 2023
A woman casts her vote at a polling station during local government elections in Hyderabad on January 15. —APP
A woman casts her vote at a polling station during local government elections in Hyderabad on January 15. —APP

ISLAMABAD: Elections in Punjab and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa seem not possible on the announced dates -- April 30 and May 28, respectively.

Informed sources said that the Election Commission of Pakistan has not found even a single federal or provincial entity ready for the polls because of multiple reasons, including the law and order situations, and financial and administrative problems. Both the judiciary and military are also not ready to do what the ECP expects from them.

The sources said that consultation with all the stakeholders have completed and now the Commission is only waiting for a decision from the KP cabinet after which it will possibly refer the case to the Supreme Court, which had ordered for holding of elections in the two provinces within 90 days.

The sources said that so far from what the Commission has heard from different stakeholders, it does not seem possible to hold the elections on April 30 in Punjab and on May 28 in KP in a free, fair, transparent and peaceful manner. If the constitution requires election within 90 days of the dissolution of the assembly, the same constitution binds the Commission to ensure fair, free, transparent elections in a peaceful manner, an ECP source said.

According to the sources the Commission has so far held consultations with the finance ministry, interior division, ISI, IB, CTD, chief secretaries and IGs of Police of Punjab and KP, KP governor, defence ministry and DG MO directorate GHQ. These sources said that none of the above finds the situation suitable for the holding of elections as per the announced dates.

The finance ministry has told the ECP that it has no funds to spare for the elections because of the serious economic situation faced by the country. The interior ministry, ISI, IB, etc. have informed the ECP about the serious security threats under which the holding of elections in a peaceful manner cannot be ensured.

The Punjab chief secretary and inspector general of police, these sources said, not only pointed out the law and order situation as the possible hurdle in the holding of election on April 30 but also informed that in view of the serious deficiency of Punjab police personnel hardly 1.1 policemen can be assigned to each police station. The ECP was told that the Punjab police is short of 300,000 personnel.

The KP government has far more serious concerns about the security and law and order situation. The provincial government representatives told the Commission that terrorism has increased in the province during the recent months and there are intelligence reports of terrorists’ activities, which need to be curbed and checked to bring peace in the province.

The ECP sources said that the KP government had requested that after holding a cabinet meeting, it will give its final word to the Commission this week.

The defence ministry and the DGMO briefed the Commission on the duties of the armed forces, both on the borders and within the country, for security reasons and to check terrorism particularly in KP and Balochistan. The defence authorities told the ECP that because of the defence and security commitments, the army personnel could not be spared for static duties at each polling station. Maximum, it is said, the armed forces could be available as a quick response force but here too the government has to decide whether the defence forces should compromise their fundamental duties to perform the suggested role in the elections.

Regarding the judicial officers’ role and returning officers and deputy returning officers, the ECP sources said that the LHC has already declined to provide district court judges for election duties.

The sources said that the Commission after getting the final decision from the KP cabinet will review the entire situation and may approach the apex court with its report on the possibility of elections as per the announced dates.