ISLAMABAD: The fate of the much delayed yet anxiously awaited local government (LG) elections in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa seems to keep hanging in the balance, with the poll body on Thursday plainly expressing its inability to hold the election in the province in the ongoing month.
The development brings the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) at odds with the government of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa that has clearly communicated to the electoral body its readiness to hold the LG polls in the province anytime in the coming days. The ECP authorities on Thursday held a meeting with the representatives of the KP government to inform them that the conduct of the LG polls was not possible by April 30, the date prescribed by the provincial government.
Instead, the ECP formed a committee comprising of the ECP secretary, NADRA chairman, KP chief secretary and related officials for the removal of anomalies in the KP LG rules and the delimitation of constituencies in the province in the light of a Supreme Court ruling. The Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) that has repeatedly shared its reservations regarding the allegedly compromised style of functioning of the ECP machinery, has rejected the commission’s latest contention on the LG polls in KP.
The political party demands of the poll body to honour its assurances made in the recent past. Earlier, the ECP refused to entertain the PTI request to use Electronic Voting Machines (EVMs) or biometric system in the LG polls, saying the project was too costly to be implemented and it was workable only in a pollution-free environment, which is not available in Pakistan. Talking to Daily Times, PTI Secretary Information Dr Shireen Mazari said, “The ECP had assured PTI in its meeting with the PTI leadership that they would try to hold biometric voting at least in one district as a pilot project. Also the ECP has consistently stated that is completely prepared to hold LG elections in the province by April 30, so why is the ECP not ready when it has always known that LG elections were to take place under SC decision for holding the same?”
Mazari dismissed the ECP’s stance made public a number of times suggesting that the commission needed ‘time’ to make preparatory arrangements for the LG polls. “There is no rational reason for the ECP to be so unprepared,” Dr Shireen Mazari stated. Scheduled to take place last year, the LG polls saw a further delay in January this year after SC allowed the ECP to issue new LG polls’ schedule for Punjab and Sindh. The apex court has also ordered the Federal Government to conduct legislation to empower the ECP carryout delimitation of constituencies for LG polls instead of provinces.
In the light of this ruling, fresh delimitations are required while advocate general KP has moved SC to confirm if the fresh delimitations in the KP were needed for the LG polls. The ECP, in January, expressed its failure to hold the LG polls in Sindh and Punjab citing pending pre-poll preparations, then. It also cited the related judgements of Sindh and Lahore High Courts against constituencies’ delimitations and the LG rules in the two provinces, following which the SC allowed the commission to cancel related electoral schedules and announce fresh schedules after the relevant constitutional requirements were met.
The Lahore and Sindh HCs declared as null and void the constituencies’ delimitations done by the respective provinces for the LG polls, ordering the ECP to conduct the fresh delimitations. The apex court has upheld the two HCs decisions.
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