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Undeterred by Sindh plea, ECP holds LG polls today

Undeterred by Sindh plea, ECP holds LG polls today

ISLAMABAD / KARACHI: Undeterred by the eleventh-hour request of the Sindh government to put off local bodies polls in Karachi and Hyderabad, the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) has decided to hold the elections on Sunday (today) as per the schedule.

The election watchdog has also warned that any atte­mpt to disrupt the peaceful polling process will be severely dealt with.

A meeting of the ECP on Saturday reviewed and rejected the request from the Sindh government to postpone the polls.

The meeting, chaired by Chief Election Commissi­oner Sikandar Sultan Raja, directed the provincial government to make foolproof security arrangements for the elections.

Commission warns of action if polling disrupted

Earlier, the Sindh government, in a last-ditch effort to put off the polls, sent a requ­est to the ECP citing intelligence reports of threats to various political leaders and workers.

Sources told Dawn that the provincial government had also pointed out that the required strength of Army and Rangers personnel for peaceful elections was not available.

Interior Minister Rana Sanaullah also raised alarm over the tense situation where two parties wanted the polls to go ahead as planned while the other two sought postponement.

He warned that some miscreants might take advantage of the situation and as a result, a minor incident may escalate into a greater conflict.

He advised the political parties and other stakeholders to “defuse the tension by acting wisely”.

The minister also asked the ECP and the judiciary to take notice of the gravity of the situation and find an appropriate solution as per the Constitution.

In his message, the CEC also urged the people of Karachi and Hyderabad to take part in the electoral exercise and express their confidence in democracy.

He assured the voters that the ECP will ensure elections without any interference and that any attempt at orchestrating violence will be tackled with full force.

He also said that local governments were inevitable for democracy and progress.

He assured the people that the ECP, polling staff and law enforcement agencies will live up to the expectations of the voters in ensuring free, fair and peaceful elections in Karachi and Hyderabad.

ECP warns of ‘stern action’

Addressing a press conference in Karachi, ECP Secretary Umar Hameed Khan warned of stern action if the polling process was disrupted.

The ECP secretary said the law would take its course if any attempts were made to obstruct the smooth conduct of elections. He was also asked about the commission’s stance if the Sindh governor promulgates an ordinance to put off the elections.

He said the governor might do what he had to do but the ECP is fully prepared to hold the elections. “We have always put the public interest first.”

The ECP secretary added that it is the Sindh government’s responsibility to maintain law and order during the elections.

The commission has full support from the police to conduct elections, Mr Khan added.

He added that the ECP had completed its preparations and adequate security arrangements were in place.

“Frontier Constabulary personnel are also being deployed to ensure security during polling,” he said, adding that Rangers were also being deputed at 50 polling stations in Karachi.

“All institutions are there to support the ECP,” he said, while hoping that the provincial government and security institutions would fulfil their responsibility to hold peaceful polling.

He also urged the people to cast their votes without any fear.

“We appeal to the Sindh Government and all political parties to give people an opportunity to cast their votes in the local government elections,” he said.

Answering the question regarding the situation of the Punjab Assembly, Mr Khan said that if the government and the opposition in Punjab failed to appoint a caretaker chief minister, then as per the Constitution, the ECP would perform this duty.

Sitting alongside the ECP secretary, Sindh Election Commissioner Ejaz Anwar also requested the voters to come out and exercise their right on Sunday.

The term of the local governments in Sindh expired on Aug 30, 2020, and the commission was under a constitutional and legal obligation to hold elections within 120 days after the date. The second phase of the local government elections in Sindh was scheduled to take place on July 24 last year, but it was postponed due to unprecedented rains and flooding in the country, particularly in Sindh. The electoral body rescheduled the local government elections for Aug 28, but they were put off again due to the same reason.

The polls were then rescheduled for Oct 23, but were postponed again, this time because of the non-availability of police and other law enforcement agencies.

After multiple delays, the ECP on Nov 22 finally announced that the second phase of local bodies polls in Karachi and Hyderabad would be held on Jan 15.

Published in Dawn, January 15th, 2023

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