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NA panel wants LG polls put off

December 27, 2013
— File photo
— File photo

ISLAMABAD: A senior official of the Election Commission of Pakistan said on Thursday that local government polls in Sindh and Punjab on the announced dates were not possible.

According to the schedule announced by the commission, the LG polls in Sindh and Punjab are to be held on Jan 18 and Jan 30, respectively. But ECP’s Additional Secretary Syed Sher Afgan during a briefing to a standing committee of the National Assembly said that printing of 330 million ballot papers and their transportation down to thousands of constituencies was not possible in such a short time.

The final lists of contesting candidates with symbols allotted to them are to be issued on Jan 13, and the exercise for printing of ballot papers can only start after that. These ballot papers should reach the returning officers concerned at least a day before the polling date.

The ECP official said that Printing Corporation of Pakistan and other state-owned printing facilities lacked the capacity to print ballot papers in such a huge number within the required period.

The statement prompted the committee to unanimously recommend postponement of the LG elections in the two provinces for a few months.

Mr Afgan assured the meeting that any request made by the provinces to the Supreme Court to get the elections delayed would be endorsed by the ECP. He said ECP had already informed the Supreme Court that the given time was insufficient for holding of elections in a free, fair and transparent manner. Besides, he added, a number of petitions had been filed challenging delimitations in the two provinces.

He said the commission was already examining the feasibility of the suggestion given by the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa government for installation of electronic voting machines (EVM) to verify voters at the polling stations by matching their thumb impressions with the ones stored in the Nadra’s database in that province and other parts of the country.

He said 400,000 biometric devices would be required to be installed at polling stations across the country for which an amount of Rs15-20 billion would be needed. He said the devices could only be installed in a dust-free environment and would not be possible to put in place at polling stations established in school and college buildings.

He also informed the committee that the life of magnetised ink used during the May 11 elections was not more than six hours. Therefore, he added, it had been decided that standardised non-magnetic ink would be used in the local government polls.

The meeting presided over by Committee Chairman Mian Abdul Mannan was attended by Minister of State for Parliamentary Affairs Sheikh Aftab Ahmad, Mohammad Afzal Khan Dhandla, Nisar Ahmad Jatt, Chaudhry Salman Hanif Khan, Arifa Khalid Pervez, Shahida Rehmani and Nafeesa Inayatullah Khan Khattak, besides senior officers from the ministry of parliamentary affairs and election commission.