PESHAWAR - The much-discussed Local Government (LG) polls has gone further out of sight when the ruling Pakistan Tehrik-e-Insaf Pakistan (PTI) has again resolved to hold the polls under the biometric system, which is still at a long distance.
Stuck to its demand to have the LG elections under the biometric system, the very first to this kind in the country, the KP government through a letter dispatched to the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) insisted that it could wait even if it took six months to introduce the system in the province.
A week before, the ECP has conveyed the KP government that procurement, transportation and installation of biometric system would require at least 20 weeks and subsequently it would delay the LG polls.
So far, it reflects that the KP government and the CEC are not on the same page on the use of biometric system. The ECP wants to use this technology in limited constituencies as a pilot project while the PTI-led government has been insisting on using the biometric machines for verifying the identity of voters in the whole province.
It is not as easy as it looks to hold LG polls in the province, some 50,000 polling booths would have to be set up for which at least 50,000 machines would have to be procured and each machine would cost at least Rs30,000 about Rs1.5 billion would be required for the purpose.
A couple of day back, the KP Minister for Local Government Inayatullah Khan said that the ECP has conveyed to the province that LG elections via the biometric system would require at least 140 days otherwise polls can be held within 45 days.
He said that both recommendations have been sent to the chief minister who would decide on the matter. He, however, said that his department has proposed to hold the elections without the biometric system.
In a reply to the ECP, the KP government Friday sent a letter to the commission that it would wait for months to hold the government polls under the biometric system. The PTI wants to use the system first in the province, as its leadership has too much politicised the issue, ignoring loopholes in the provincial local government act.
"There is no section in the act that makes it prerequisite to hold LG elections through biometric systems. Thus, to have it, the government would have to introduce special clauses in the law," an official told The Nation. The PTI does not want to budge from its stance, by doing this, it wants to gain more time and fully prepare for the contest as main opposition parties in the province have already entered into an electoral alliance against the ruling parties.
On December 28 last, the KP government and the ECP had conducted a trial voting under the biometric system as part of preparations for holding fair and transparent LG polls in the province. The mock polling was held at village council Budhni, ward Wadpagga and Sir Buland Pura in Peshawar district.
It aimed at checking the success of the biometric system in holding error-free and transparent polling and thwarting bogus voting. During this exercise, thumb impression and computerised national identity cards of voters were verified through the biometric machine. However, some problems were encountered in recognising the thumb impressions, as the biometric system was unable to verify thumbs having removed ridges as well as that of female thumb impression in case henna was applied to it.
A few days back, CM KP Pervez Khattak said that provincial government is committed to hold local government elections before Nov 15 as per the judgment of Supreme Court of Pakistan. Moreover, he said that provincial government in close contact with the ECP to use biometric system in the polls.
The chief minister said that the government would take all necessary steps with the cooperation of ECP to hold the elections timely in fair, impartial and transparent manner. For the purpose, provincial government was insisting that biometric system should be used in the local government elections, he added.
On April 3 last, Pervez Khattak said that his government was ready to hold LG elections on April 30 as delimitations had been done and nobody had objected over this issue. He had expressed these views at PTI's Core Committee meeting in Islamabad. However, the ECP had ruled out the possibility of holding local government elections in KP by April 30.
Meanwhile, opposition parties, including PPP, ANP, QWP and JUI-F have blamed the PTI government for using delaying tactics in holding the local government elections in the province. The opposition parties have entered into an alliance to contest the coming LG polls from a joint platform against the ruling parties. However, the polls are not in sight in the province.