ISLAMABAD - Citing ‘conducive’ security environment, the electoral body has announced to hold the postponed by-poll on September 18 in a National Assembly’s constituency, partially falling in the north-western tribal region.
The poll authority on August 20 had postponed the by-elections in the said constituency on the reported pressure from the military establishment, despite earlier rejecting a request from the Ministry of Defence in this regard. This has left a former electoral boss wondering what turned the security situation ‘conducive’ in a month.
A statement from the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) issued Monday cited the relevant provisions of the Representation of the People Act (RoPA) 1976 as well as a related report from the chief secretary Khyber Pakhtunkhwa to announce the fresh by-poll date in the NA-25 Dera Ismail Khan-cum-Tank.
As many as 17 candidates are eyeing the NA-25 seat vacated by Jamiat Ulema-e-Islam -Fazl (JUI-F) Chief Maulana Fazl-ur-Rehman. The actual contest on this seat seems to be between Rehman’s son Asad Mehmood and Dawar Kundi from Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI). Apparently, Kundi has an edge over Mehmood considering that other three NA-25 candidates from the Kundi tribe, Mustafa Kundi, Ahmad Karim Kundi and Faisal Karim Kundi, the former deputy speaker National Assembly, have informally extended their support to Dawar Kundi.
The NA-25 has 366550 registered voters comprising 204767 male and 161783 female voters. It has 308 polling stations of which 77 stations are male-specific, 74 female-specific and 157 combined. The number of polling booths in NA-25 is 845 comprising of 469 male and 376 female booths. Nadeem Mohmand, Senior Civil Judge, Tank, is the Returning Officer (RO) for NA-25 DI Khan-cum-Tank.
In May 11 general elections, Maulana Fazl had secured NA-25 by bagging 77595 votes against Dawar Kundi’s 47543 and Faisal Kundi’s 46262 votes. Mustafa Kundi had received 2105 votes whereas Ahmad Kundi ended up with only 154 votes. A total of 19 candidates had contested the general elections on the said seat. As many as 196678 votes were polled in NA-25 out of which 187513 were accepted as valid and 9165 rejected. For the by-poll, all the polling stations of NA-25 have been marked as highly sensitive and the military troops would be deployed in and outside all these 308 polling stations.
The ECP’s decision to postpone the by-poll in the same constituency due to security reasons, a couple of days before the August 22 by-polls, had triggered criticism. The surprising development had surfaced only a day after the commission, in a top-level meeting chaired by Acting Chief Election Commissioner Justice Tassaduq Hussain Jillani, had reiterated to hold the by-elections in all the 42 electoral constituencies while rejecting a request from the ministry for the by-poll postponement in NA-25 due to security reasons.
All the poll contestants from NA-25 had strongly rejected the ministry’s version on security situation in DI Khan while opposing the poll postponement in the said constituency.
This reportedly did not go well with the powerful military establishment that purportedly cited the infamous DI Khan jailbreak incident to warn 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, thus resulting in the eventual postponement of the poll.
“I really wonder what turned the security situation so conductive in hardly a month. Were there any imminent threats on August 20 that would die down on September 18? Really? How?” asked former secretary ECP Kanwar Dilshad while sarcastically referring to the ECP’s decision to postpone the by-poll in NA-25.
“ECP is an independent constitutional body and all organs of state are bound to assist it and follow its instructions for the conduct of free and fair elections. How easily did the ECP apparently give in to the military’s pressure to postpone the poll is disappointingly surprising.”
In his report dated August 29 and submitted to the Provincial Election Commission KP on August 30, Chief Secretary KP Shehzad Arbab has said that the provincial government would make arrangements for the deployment of military, local police, Frontier Corps and Frontier Constabulary troops to conduct the by-election in ‘secure’ and ‘conducive’ environment.
Even before the by-poll was postponed in NA-25, the PEC KP and the KP Government had reportedly informed the ECP about their readiness to hold by-election in the said constituency on August 22.
The Section 11A of RoPA 1976 provides that the election commission may at any time make such alterations in the programme announced for the different stages of the election as may, in its opinion, be necessary.