ISLAMABAD: A National Assembly (NA) panel and Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) on Thursday jointly described holding of local government (LG) elections in Sindh and Punjab in January “impossible” because of time constraints.
Although the ECP had announced schedule for holding LG election in Sindh and Punjab on January 18 and 30 respectively, its official expressed the commission’s inability to complete the task because of capacity constraints when he briefed the Standing Committee on Parliamentary Affairs, chaired by Mian Abdul Mannan, MNA.
Committee members were apprised by the Election Commission of Pakistan additional secretary regarding the upcoming local government elections in Punjab and Sindh and he admitted that printing 300 million and 30 million ballot papers in Punjab and Sindh, respectively was not possible.
The Printing Press of Pakistan and other printing sectors “do not have the capacity at all” for the purpose, he told the committee.
The ECP official also said that if provinces submit their request in the Supreme Court for delaying the upcoming LG elections, the ECP would endorse their point of view, adding that the commission had already stated in the court that the time given for holding free, fair and transparent elections was insufficient.
After the ECP additional secretary said that holding LG elections in the country is not possible in these circumstances, the committee unanimously recommended that the already announced schedule of these elections be reviewed and delayed for a few months in Punjab and Sindh.
It was also informed that a technical team of PCSIR and NADRA had unanimously declared that the life of magnetic ink – used by the Election Commission of Pakistan during general elections of 2013 – was not more than six hours and the duration could reduce further owing to hot weather conditions.
According to the ECP schedule for LG elections in Punjab, polling would take place on January 30. The deadline for submitting nomination papers is December 27. Any reservations regarding nomination papers would be heard on December 29. The ECP would scrutinise the nomination papers from December 30 to January 4.
On January 13, the ECP would issue the final list containing the names of the candidates. Their election symbols will also be allotted the same day.
The NA committee on Thursday also recommended that PWP-II programme should be continued in light of the directions given by the Supreme Court of Pakistan and it was decided that secretaries of ministries of finance and revenue, planning and development and housing would be called in the next meeting of the standing committee to discuss allocation of funds for this programme.
The committee was also briefed by the Ministry of Parliamentary Affairs secretary regarding the functioning and organisational structure of the ministry.
The secretary said that 109 officers and officials were working in the ministry. Public Affairs and Grievances Cell has already discharged its duties effectively, he added.
The committee was of the view that this cell needs more attention for its smooth working.
The ECP additional secretary also said that the commission is already looking into the suggestions given by the government of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa regarding installation of biometric thumb impression devices at all polling stations in KP and all over the country.
The ECP official briefed the committee about the observation already made by the ECP about these devices. He said that such a device could only be installed in dust-free atmosphere.
The committee was also told that 400,000 biometric devices would be required for local government elections in the country and this would need an amount of Rs 15-20 billion approximately.
The committee meeting was attended by Sheikh Aftab Ahmad, minister of state for parliamentary affairs, Dr Muhammad Afzal Khan Dhandla, Dr Nisar Ahmad Jatt, Chaudhry Salman Haneef Khan, Arifa Khalid Parvez, Shahida Rehmani, Nafeesa Inayatullah Khan Khattak, MNAs, and senior officers from the Ministry of Parliamentary Affairs and ECP.
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