PESHAWAR, March 27: The Peshawar High Court on Wednesday set a seven-day deadline for the Election Commission of Pakistan to finalise its plan for participation of internally displaced persons from tribal areas in general elections.
A bench comprising Chief Justice Dost Mohammad Khan and Justice Syed Afsar Shah asked ECP to set up polling stations for IDPs at suitable places so that they could exercise their right to vote without hassle.
A representative of ECP informed the bench that the commission had already been working on the matter and would manage to finalise it within next two days.
He said the ECP had sought certain data from Fata Disaster Management Authority (FDMA) and Provincial Disaster Management Authority (PDMA) regarding the number of IDPs following which they would make the arrangements.
Chief coordinator of PDMA Faiz Mohammad informed the bench that there were around 163102 displaced families from tribal areas including around 12442 families taking shelter at Jalozai Camp in Nowshera district. He said around 45 per cent of displaced persons were above 18 years of age.
The official said certain information was required by ECP, which was planning to set up polling stations in the food distribution hubs which totaled 23.
He added that although those hubs were managed by the UN agencies and they were often hesitant to share such information, but PDMA managed to convince their top officials in Geneva to acquire those details and pass it on to ECP.
The chief justice inquired about the bomb blast which took place at Jalozai Camp on March 21 which had left around 17 persons killed. The official said they had made security arrangements there but Jalozai was a very sprawling and spacious camp which was open from all directions.
The chief justice observed that the attack was aimed at terrorising the poor people who had already fled their respective areas because of conflict and were even not speared in IDPs camp. The bench issued directions for proper arrangements to check vehicles entering the camp.Mr Faiz Mohammad said the attack had further strengthened their resolve to serve these helpless people and even the international humanitarian organisations had assured them they would continue their support to IDPs.
The bench fixed April 23 for next hearing with the direction to ECP to submit report about polling arrangements within a week.
The chief justice had taken suo moto notice of the issues related to IDPs in April last year and had issued several directives to PDMA and subsequently to FDMA to provide all the required facilities to IDPs at Jalozai Camp till their return to their areas of origin when the operation was stopped and peace restored there.
A few weeks ago, the court had issued directives to ECP to make polling arrangements for IDPs in their camps during the elections.