KARACHI - The Sindh High Court issued notices to the Election Commission of Pakistan and others on a petition of the Jamaat-i-Islami (JI) against postponement of the second phase of local government (LG) elections in Sindh.

JI-Karachi chief Hafiz Naeem ur Rehman, who is also contesting the election on a union committee chairman, and another party candidate have petitioned the SHC stating that the LG polls were postponed with mala fide intention and sought a directive for the ECP to announce an early date for holding elections.

When a two-judge bench headed by Chief Justice Ahmed Ali M. Shaikh took up the matter for hearing, the counsel for petitioners argued that the ballot papers had been handed over to presiding officers before the postponement of the elections and they had no idea about their current status.

The counsel further submitted that Karachi Administrator Murtaza Wahab was a political person and was allegedly providing government machinery and funds to the candidates of the Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) to promote and build their campaign and image.

The bench remarked that two major cities of province had received heavy rain on July 24, as forecasted, and there would have been hardly any turnout if the polls were held on the earlier scheduled date.

The court put the ECP, provincial election commissioner, Sindh chief secretary and federal and provincial law officers on notice with a direction to file comments on the next hearing.

The petitioners submitted that the four-year tenure of the previously elected local governments in Sindh had expired on Aug 30, 2020, and instead of holding elections, the provincial government had appointed administrators across the province.

They maintained that initially, the Sindh government had deliberately delayed the delimitation process by not providing the details and required maps of union committees, while the ECP was bound to hold elections within 120 days after the end of the tenure of the previous local body government.

Thereafter, the petitioners submitted that the provincial government had provided the data after the ECP had issued a warning. The JI had serious reservations over voter list and the delimitation, which was carried out totally on political grounds to provide maximum benefit to the ruling party in Sindh, but still it welcomed the LG elections, they added.

They argued that the ECP had postponed the elections just three days before the second phase which were scheduled to be held on July 24 in Karachi and Hyderabad divisions, and fixed Aug 28 as the new date for polling.

The petitioners contended that the reasons incorporated in the impugned notification of the ECP to postpone the LG elections were ‘lame excuses’ having no base.

They submitted that the ECP had cited Muharram and forecast of heavy rain as reasons to delay the elections, but the Met office had been issuing such forecasts for the past two months, and only five per cent of such forecasts were found correct while Muharram was starting six days after the scheduled date of elections.

They further submitted that on June 24, the SHC had also dismissed the petitions of the Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf and Muttahida Qaumi Movement-Pakistan seeking postponement of the LG election and ruled that no case for staying the elections was made out by the petitioners.

The petitioners also pleaded to set aside the impugned notification and for publication of fresh ballot papers with different colours to avoid malpractice and rigging.

It may be recalled that a PTI candidate had also filed an identical petition last month and the SHC had issued notices to the ECP and other respondents for Aug 11 (today), but also directed the lawyer for the petitioner to satisfy it about the maintainability of the petition.