Supreme Court rejects ECP’s new LG poll schedule

* ECP proposes new schedule due to delay in printing of ballot papers
Supreme Court rejects ECP’s new LG poll schedule

ISLAMABAD: The ambiguity regarding the holding of local government (LG) elections persists as the Supreme Court on Wednesday refused to approve the Election Commission of Pakistan’s (ECP) proposed new polling date for LG elections in Punjab and Sindh.
Hearing ECP’s application regarding the issuance of the proposed new LG elections schedule in two provinces due to the delay in printing of ballot papers, the three-member bench of the apex court, headed by Chief Justice of Pakistan Tassaduq Hussain Jillani observed that since the whole delimitation process had been set aside by the Sindh High Court and Lahore High Court, there is no need to issue a revised polling date of local government elections at this stage.
The bench also observed, “We are confident that the ECP will not show slackness in holding the LG elections.” The chief justice has made it clear that the LG elections process would not be adjourned or delayed for an indefinite time period. Addressing MQM’s counsel Farugh Nasim, the CJP said that he must be conscious about the mandate of Article 140-A. He observed that the governments did not complete their homework regarding the holding of LG elections; therefore, the court intervened in this regard. 
Appearing before the bench ECP Secretary Ishtiaq Ahmad Khan and Advocate Akram Sheikh told the court that due to the request of the Printing Corporation of Pakistan (PCP) and Pakistan Security Printing Corporation (PSPC) to extend the time for printing of ballot papers, he said that elections in Sindh on January 18 and in Punjab on January 30 appear to be impossible. The ECP’s counsel has also pointed out that printing of ballot papers could only be started after the issuance of the list of contesting candidates and not before that. 
Submitting the new proposed polling date of LG elections, the ECP secretary said that the commission had suggested February 23 as polling date in Sindh and March 13 in Punjab. The court, however, pointed out that after the issuance of verdicts by the two high courts, the commission had no need to issue a new proposed polling date. The court has also accepted the Sindh government’s appeal against the SHC order against fresh delimitation carried out by the provincial government. Issuing notices to all respondents, the bench adjourned the hearing until January 27. 
Sindh Advocate General Khalid Javed contended before the bench that delimitation process was carried out in consultation with the ECP. He also requested the bench to suspend the SHC order so that the LG elections could be held. He noted that 11,000 candidates had submitted their nomination papers. On the other hand, the counsel for MQM, Farugh Naseem opposed the Sindh AG’s plea regarding the suspension of SHC’s order and asked the bench to give an early date for regular hearing of the case. agencies

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