ISLAMABAD - Chief Election Commissioner Justice (Retd) Fakhruddin G Ebrahim has said that Election Commission of Pakistan can organise the general elections as well as the local bodies polls simultaneously in case the electoral schedule of the two elections coincide with one another.
"It would be very hectic but yes we can do it," he said when approached by this journalist on Wednesday.
"I have discussed this with my people at the ECP and they are positive that we can hold two different types of polls at a time although this becomes a really complex process," the CEC said in response to The Nation's queries on the stalled local government elections, the ruling coalition partners opposition to Sindh People's Local Government Ordinance (SPLGO) and the ECP's preparedness in case the schedule of the next general polls collides with that of the LG polls (provided that the provincial governments decide to conduct them.)
"On papers as well as in practical terms, the ECP is mandated to hold any kind of polls- the National Assembly, provincial assemblies, or the district councils- at any given time and one can readily do so but personally speaking, I think this would be too much of a job to go for; arranging the LB and the general elections at the same time. Both sets of polls can adversely affect each other if conducted simultaneously, lets say on the same day or within the same time period, that could see coinciding electoral schedules," he said. "Anywhere in the world, if the general and LB polls fall within the same time period, they're going to cost a lot of expenditure and need a lot of manpower, technical expertise, resources and skills.
This makes the job quite difficult but not impossible. For us, it's challenging but doable and we're capable of abiding by our responsibilities, no matter how challenging be."
Amidst strong opposition by the coalition partners, with exception to Muttahida Qaumi Movement (MQM), to the recently promulgated SPLGO, the future of the ordinance has landed in doldrums, as calls from the political circles and electoral experts to hold the LB polls after the general elections have started echoing.
For many, the anticipated conduct of LB polls just ahead of general elections in Sindh is Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP's) 'shrewd' move to oblige MQM and influence the parliamentary polls using the local government machinery.
A few days back, former Secretary Election Commission Kanwar Dilshad had termed the promulgation of the SPLGO as a "give-and-take agreement between two parties for power-sharing in Sindh out of vested interests."
"Why did the ruling elites not bother to hold local government polls in the last four-and-half years? Why now?" he had asked while talking to this newspaper.
The CEC Justice (r) Fakhruddin G Ebrahim, on the other hand, did not comment on the political aspects involving SPLGO saying that it was for the political parties to solve the political issues. "Our job is to be ready for elections whenever needed," he responded when requested to share his perspective on the prevailing political scenario regarding the LB polls, amidst strong reservations shared against the same by majority of the ruling coalition forces in Sindh. "It's a political matter and political matters are to be solved by the politicians, not us. As I said, it's for the political parties to do politics and settle their issues. As chief election commissioner, I have nothing to say on this. All I can is that we're always ready for the LB elections whether they are going to be held before, during or after general polls."
Ebrahim reiterated that the ECP could organise these elections on a 'short notice' of three months. "The constitution empowers the provincial governments to call LB polls in their respective provinces. Whenever they're ready, they just have to intimate us and the rest is up to us. We can hold the elections on short notice of three months."