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Monday April 22, 2024

Civil society rejects EC’s order for postponement of Punjab polls

By Myra Imran
March 26, 2023

Islamabad: Civil society has rejected the Election Commission's order for postponement of Punjab elections terming it an "unlawful and unconstitutional order."

Despite heavy rain, the civil society members gathered in front of National Press Club to register their protest. In a statement issued on the occasion, the alliance of CSOs said that the "unlawful" postponement of general election to the Punjab Assembly by the Election Commission has further sharpened the already existing polarisation and deepened the multi-faceted turmoil to a dangerous level. “We the civil society activists strongly condemn the decision of the ECP as it has not only violated the order of the Supreme Court but also section 58 of the Elections Act 2017 which clearly states that ECP must ‘inform the President about any alteration in the election programme,” mentioned the statement.

It says that the law doesn’t allow ECP to announce the new date without the consultation of the President and Governor of the province. Sadly, the ECP failed on both accounts. “Therefore, it provided sufficient ground to doubt its intention. No wonder a large majority of intellectuals, political and legal experts, civil society organisations, bar associations, and press have strongly rejected or condemned the order of the ECP.”

The statement says that civil society finds no reason to support the stated explanation of the ECP for the postponement of general election to Punjab Assembly as ECP had itself proposed middle of April for the said election. “So, what has changed radically since then? Evidence reveals nothing. Though financial crunch is a reality, if government could spend billions of rupees on laptop like schemes, it could allocate PKR 15.5 billion for election too.”

It mentions that in the past, local election have always been held in phases. “If there is a shortage of security personnel, hold Punjab election in two or three phasis too and ask other provinces to provide personnel. We the civil society activists also observe this with serious concern - that by citing all the reasons for postponement of the election which ruling coalition has also been aggressively propagating. This has seriously damaged trust of public in ECP’s neutrality.”

The statement says that under Article 218 and section 8C of the Elections Act 2017 ECP must ‘ensure that the election is conducted honestly, justly, fairly’. “We note with deep concern that instead of removing hurdles to the holding of elections, the ECP appears to use them as reasons for not holding the election. It is shameful. We appeal to the Supreme Court to take notice of the situation and restore confidence of the public in state institutions.”