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June 11, 2021

ECP reviews LB polls’ preparations

ISLAMABAD: The Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) Thursday reviewed preparations for the local bodies’ elections in the provinces, Islamabad and cantonment boards and noted that the provincial governments still needed months for the purpose, citing various reasons.

In this connection, an important meeting of the Commission was held here at the Election Commission Secretariat under the chairmanship of Chief Election Commissioner Sikandar Sultan Raja.

Minister for Local Government Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, secretaries Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and Election Commission, four provincial election commissioners, secretary Local Government Punjab, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, Balochistan, Federal Ministry of Home Affairs and relevant officials of the Department of Military Lands and Cantonments attended the meeting.

Chief Secretaries Balochistan and Sindh were invited to the meeting through the video link. The CEC said since the results of the 2017 census had been released by the Statistics Agency, delimitation of constituencies should be held as early as possible in Islamabad, Punjab, Sindh and Balochistan, while the local bodies elections should be held in cantonment boards and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa.

Regarding the LB elections in Punjab, the meeting was informed that the Punjab government was awaiting the notification of maps, tehsil wise village and neighborhood hold councils, notification of delimitation rules and draft Punjab Local Government Rules.

Secretary local government Punjab informed the meeting that the notification regarding village and neighborhood councils would be issued by mid-June. He said the Punjab Local Government Rules 2021 would be published after approval by the provincial cabinet.

To this, the CEC said as soon as the relevant rules were received by the Election Commission, it will start work in this regard. However, after the rules, the Election Commission will need four months to prepare, he added.

He said the Punjab province had filed a review petition against the Supreme Court decision regarding restoration of local bodies. “If the review petition is approved, the Punjab government will be ready to hold local bodies elections in November 2021. The elections will be held in March 2022,” he noted.

Secretary local government Punjab also informed the Commission that the repealed ordinance had been presented in the form of a bill in the Punjab Assembly, which was expected to be approved in July. Director local government Election Commission told the meeting that the demarcation work in all districts of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa except Peshawar had been completed, while the demarcation work of Peshawar district will be completed by July 7, 2021.

The meeting was informed that the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa government had not received a copy of amendment to the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Local Government Act 2013 from the Department of Law.

Election commissioner Khyber Pakhtunkhwa informed the meeting that due to shortage of election staff in the entire province, there may be difficulties in the holding of polls in one day and suggested that the elections should be held in phases.

Minister for local government Khyber Pakhtunkhwa suggested that local bodies elections should be held separately in the integrated tribal districts and in the remaining districts. In this regard, it was decided that the relevant officers of the Election Commission and the provincial government should make recommendations keeping in view the administrative difficulties.

Representatives of the Election Commission and the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa government agreed that time between the end of September to mid-October would be conducive for holding elections. He assured that he would put these proposals before the provincial cabinet.

On the holding of local bodies elections in Balochistan, secretary local government of Balochistan informed the meeting that the proposed amendments to the Balochistan Local Government Act 2021 had been sent to the provincial cabinet but they had not been approved yet.

He noted as a result of the 2017 census, there was a clear difference in the population of the province so these amendments are necessary. In response to a query, secretary local government Balochistan said these amendments were sent to the provincial cabinet from March 2021 and without their approval, the local bodies elections could not be held.

Expressing anger over this, the Election Commission said why such an important constitutional issue was being delayed so much and directed the secretary Election Commission to talk to the chief secretary Balochistan in this regard. Murtaza Wahab, spokesman for the Sindh government and Chief Secretary Sindh, attended the meeting online but the meeting could not be held due to technical reasons.

Director local government Election Commission informed the meeting about the LB elections in Islamabad Capital Territory. He said maps had been received from the Statistics Department, while notification of zoning committee and authority had been issued and the federal government had approved the existing union councils.

The Election Commission has been informed in writing to conduct constituencies/elections on the basis of number of constituencies, while the constituency wise schedule will be released as soon as the block wise population figures were received. The Statistics Department said the said statistics should be provided soon.

The meeting was informed that the cantonment boards had completed the delimitation work for the elections and suggestions had also been received from all the provincial election commissioners for appointment of district returning officer, returning officer and assistant returning officer.

In addition, the federal government informed the Election Commission in writing to issue an election program. A separate meeting will be convened soon regarding the holding of local bodies elections in Sindh.