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Moving to ease political pressure : ECP mulls LG polls in KP on biometric system

* Govt asks commission to return unutilised LG polls funds ahead of fiscal year-end

ISLAMABAD: Apparently moved into action by the enormous pressure from the political parties who have been demanding electoral reforms, the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) is considering holding the local government elections in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa with the help of biometric system as demanded by the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI).
However, at least five to six months would be required to make preparations for holding election on biometric system. In a linked move, and in what appears to be an indication that the local government elections are not likely to be held anytime soon, the federal government has asked the ECP to return the funds amounting to Rs 3.8 billion that the government had earlier released to the commission for the local government elections. 
Reportedly, the government is of the view that these unutilised funds would stand exhausted after June 30 following the completion of this fiscal year, and the Finance Ministry would release fresh funds to the commission at the start of the next fiscal year (July onwards), considering the ECP’s needs to hold local government polls in the three provinces. 
Citing the upcoming funds’ exhaustion, the Finance Ministry has formally approached the ECP with the demand to return the funds that were released last year for holding the LG polls in Punjab, Sindh and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa. The ministry had also provided Rs 520 million to the commission for holding LG elections in Balochistan, held last December. One of the top ECP officials, requesting anonymity, told Daily Times that the commission has agreed to return around Rs 2.86 billion to the Finance Ministry, saying it needed to keep the remaining Rs 94 million to pay outstanding dues to the National Database and Registration Authority (Rs 450 million), Pakistan Army (Rs 310 million) and Sindh government (Rs 180 million) for the services provided during the May 2013 general polls. 
The Finance Ministry, it has been learnt, has refused to accept the commission’s stance on the grounds that the ministry has already provided more than Rs 6.5 billion to the electoral body for last year’s general polls. For the LG polls, according to the official, the ECP sought Rs 6.8 billion, but the government released Rs 4.32 billion (including Rs 520 for Balochistan LG polls) and assured to release the remaining funds as and when required.
The existing scenario, the official said, implies that the LG polls in the three provinces are not expected before the coming July when the funds in the new fiscal budget would be released. Also, he said, the commission is considering to entertain the PTI’s demand to hold the LG polls in KP on biometric system, which requires five to six months. “The political parties have united against us and there is enormous pressure. We have to do something to somehow appease them,” the official said while referring to the electoral alliance between the PTI, Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) and Pakistan Muslim League-Quaid-e-Azam (PML-Q) for electoral reforms that seek the ECP’s dissolution and fresh constitution. 
Also, the ECP on Monday decided to take action against those individuals who are found guilty of casting more than one vote in the May 2013 elections.

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