ISLAMABAD - On the reported insistence of military authorities, the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) has postponed the by-elections in an important National Assembly’s constituency in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, only a day after it had dismissed a related request from the ministry of defence and announced to conduct by-polls in all the 42 constituencies.
In an apparently surprising development, the ECP on Tuesday night announced to postpone the by-elections in NA-25, Dera Ismail Khan-cum-Tank, and backtracked from its decision taken in a top-level meeting chaired by the Acting Chief Election Commission Justice Tassadduq Hussain Jilani just a day earlier.
According to details, Secretary Defence Asif Yasin Malik citing security threats requested the ECP in Monday’s meeting to postpone the by-elections in NA-25.
Responding to the request, the ECP had contacted all the 17 by-poll contestants from the said constituency, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa government, provincial election commission management and the returning officer concerned. All the quarters concerned had categorically dismissed the concerns raised by the MoD and had strongly supported the conduct of by-polls in NA-25 on the scheduled date of August 22. Following this, the ECP had rejected the MoD’s request while announcing not to postpone the by-elections in any of the 42 constituencies.
This reportedly did not go well with the powerful military establishment that purportedly jumped into action to have the by-polls postponed. According to an ECP official, the General Headquarters (GHQ) conveyed to the ECP that security threats in NA-25 were grave and the military was not to be blamed in case of occurrence of any untoward incident. The infamous DI Khan jailbreak incident had taken place in the same constituency recently.
Concerned over the military’s warning shot, the ECP after daylong deliberations among its top officials headed by the acting CEC finally decided to postpone the by-elections, citing a report from the Provincial Election Commission Khyber Pakhtunkhwa.
The ECP source argued that PEC KPK had communicated to the ECP Secretariat about its readiness to hold by-polls in NA-25. “Actually, it’s the wish of the GHQ that has prevailed. This entire affair has nothing to do with anybody but the military,” the ECP insider commented.
Military Spokesman Major General Asim Bajwa was called at his mobile, office and residential landline numbers and messages were also dropped but he was not available to comment on the issue.
All the 308 polling stations in NA-25 had been marked as highly sensitive. The constituency has over 366,550 voters. The actual contest in the said constituency is seen between Amjad Mehmood, the son of Maulana Fazl-ur-Rehman, and PTI’s Dawar Kundi.
Reacting to the ECP’s decision, Fazl strongly criticised the postponement of by-polls in NA-25, saying his party did not accept this decision.
The ECP would announce new by-polls schedule for the said constituency in coming days.