ISLAMABAD - Rejecting two provinces’ request for further delay in local government elections on account of pending preparations and security reasons, the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) has announced holding the LG polls on the dates it had suggested before the Supreme Court last month - on January 30 and January 18 - in Punjab and Sindh respectively.
Separately, the commission has registered nine new political parties. The strength of the ECP-registered political parties now stands at 262.
The commission has issued letters to Punjab and Sindh to complete the requirements for the LG polls and intimate the poll authority, accordingly. It has particularly instructed the Sindh government to remove anomalies in Sindh LG rules and submit compliance report with the poll authority within two days (starting from Tuesday.)
Moreover, the ECP is to issue the LG polls schedule for Punjab and Sindh on December 7 and for Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and cantonment boards (CBs) in January’s first week, where the LG polls would be held before February 28.
The LG polls in Balochistan are being held on the coming Saturday (December 7) and the preparatory arrangements have been completed.
Chairing his maiden official ECP meeting on Monday, the new Acting Chief Election Commissioner (CEC) Justice Nasir-ul-Mulk and the Members Election Commission (MECs) from KP (Justice (r) Shahzad Akbar) and Balochistan (Justice (r) Fazl-ur-Rehman) unanimously rejected the requests from Punjab and Sindh Governments for extending the LG polls dates by March next year.
“Any further delay in the conduct of LG polls would be in violation of the Supreme Court orders, which shall not be acceptable,” observed the acting CEC during the meeting.
He said that the revised dates on LG polls in Punjab and Sindh were put up before the SC for its approval after thoroughly reviewing the matter in consultation with the federal and provincial governments’ representatives. “Now that the matter is done with, there is no room for changes in the LG polls dates. If there were any reservations on part of provinces or federal departments, they should have been put them forth before the SC had accepted the ECP request to hold the LG polls on the revised dates.”
The SC judge cited the constitution’s Article 220 to state it shall be the duty of all executive authorities in the federation and in the provinces to assist ECP in the discharge of its functions.
Later, briefing the media, Secretary ECP Ishtiak Ahmad Khan said, the provinces have been told that the ECP would not allow any delay in the conduct of LG polls. “We will no accept any excuse in this regard. The provinces have to follow the SC orders and ECP decision in letter and spirit,” he said.
Up to 8,15,000 stamp pads for Punjab and 300,000 for Sindh using special ink (not magnetic ink) would be used for the upcoming polls in the two provinces, the secretary added.
In a meeting on November 19, Punjab and Sindh had requested the ECP to extend the LG polls date, citing pending preparations including constituencies’ delimitation, framing of LG rules, security situation and logistical constraints. The ECP had rejected this request on the similar grounds it cited Monday.
In the same November 19 meeting, the Printing Corporation of Pakistan (PCP) and Pakistan Council of Scientific and Industrial Research (PCSIR) had suggested to the ECP to hold LG polls in Punjab and Sindh on February 19. The PCP said it needed a month to print 300 ballot papers for Punjab and 130 for Sindh whereas PCSIR said preparation of 2.2 million stamp pads and magnetic ink also required at least 30 days.
The electoral body decided that ballot papers would be printed on preferential bases considering the LG polls dates in provinces, which allowed the printing of eight million ballot papers for Balochistan first, to be followed by the printing of 130 million ballot papers for Sindh, followed by printing 300 ballot papers for Punjab.
The ballot papers for KP and CBs would be printed in February. On the basis of same principle, the special ink and stamp pads would be prepared.
On November 13, the SC had accepted the ECP request to hold LG polls in Punjab and Sindh on January 30 and January 18 and that of KP and CBs in February.
Meanwhile, the nine newly registered political parties that fulfilled the related electoral requirements under Political Parties Order 2002 and Political Parties Rules 2002 are: Jamiat Ulema-e-Pakistan, Nazaria Pakistan Tehreek, Tehreek-e-Ittehad Pakistan, Shia Sunni Ittehad, Taleem Yafta Pakistan Party, Pakistan Women Muslim League, Pasban Pakistan, Law of Quran Nizam-e-Mustafa and Awami Jamhoori Party (AJP).