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Thursday February 29, 2024

Election in Punjab on May 14 becomes impossible for ECP

The schedule for printing of ballot papers and electoral rolls has been badly disturbed, says ECP source

April 26, 2023
Men line up as election officials check their ballot papers during voting in general election at a polling station in Lahore on July 25, 2018. — AFP
Men line up as election officials check their ballot papers during voting in general election at a polling station in Lahore on July 25, 2018. — AFP

ISLAMABAD: Holding of elections in Punjab on May 14 now seems impossible because of non-provision of funding required for printing of ballot papers and pictorial electoral rolls, and training of polling personnel.

The original schedule for the printing of ballot papers and pictorial electoral rolls has been badly disturbed and delayed and now it is not possible to catch up with the time loss that has already occurred.

Election Commission sources said that the ECP has already informed the Supreme Court that it will not be in a position to print ballot papers which will result in halting or delaying the election process.

The printing of ballot papers was to start on April 20 and completed by May 9 but it could not start as yet because of non-availability of finances required.

Similarly, the printing of pictorial electoral rolls has already started and delayed. For May 14 elections, the printing of these rolls was required to commence on April 11 and completed by May 5. The Supreme Court was told by the ECP that the printing of electoral rolls would not be possible well in time which may disturb the election scheme.

The entire operation of training of polling personnel has also been delayed due to non-release of funds.

The ECP also needed funds to make payments for deployment of armed forces but in this case the armed forces are not ready for election duties because of their primary responsibilities. The Supreme Court was told by the commission that a peaceful polling process cannot be ensured with the deployment of police personnel only and the deployment of armed and civil armed forces is essential as a static mode for free, fair and transparent elections. The funding issue aside, the commission is also in favour of holding elections in Punjab on Oct 8, 2023. In its report presented before the SC, the commission recently reiterated its position on holding elections on October 8. It had warned the apex court that if the commission’s itinerary is not followed, it might lead to anarchy and chaos in the country.

“The responsibility of the Election Commission of Pakistan is not only to conduct elections but that such elections should be free, fair and transparent, so that the voters can cast their votes freely, without fear and peacefully. It is reiterated that the poll date of Oct 8, 2023 as announced earlier is in keeping with the ground realities and it is also believed that if this itinerary is not followed, it may lead to anarchy and chaos in our country, the responsibility of which ECP cannot withstand,” read the report submitted before the three-member bench by the secretary ECP on behalf of the commission last week.

The commission also warned that if the elections were not supplemented by other law enforcing agencies in static mode, the lives and safety of the voters specifically, the election staff and public at large, will be at premium risk and is likely to be compromised.