KARACHI: While the Pakistan Peoples Party-led Sindh government and Muttahida Qaumi Movement-Pakistan have asked the Election Commission of Pakistan to postpone the by-election on a National Assembly seat (NA-249) in Baldia Town, the Pak Sarzameen Party on Wednesday urged the chief election commissioner not to entertain such pleas and hold the by-election as per schedule on April 29.
Both the Sindh government and the MQM-P had separately asked the ECP to postpone the by-election in view of the increasing number of Covid-19 cases as they indicated that rallies, public gatherings, corner meetings, etc, for the election campaign might aggravate the situation.
Only a day earlier, the opposition Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz requested the CEC not to pay any heed to the Sindh government’s request as by seeking postponement of the by-election the ruling party in Sindh was trying to escape its defeat.
On Wednesday, PSP chairman Syed Mustafa Kamal, who himself is contesting the by-election, wrote a letter to the CEC urging him to not postpone the election in the constituency.
“The Government of Sindh and other political parties for their political and vested interests, anticipating defeat in the upcoming by-election, are propagating and lobbying for the delay/postponement of the by-election,” he stated in the letter, adding: “[They] want more time to carry out further political campaign/activities in order to influence the mindset of the constituents, which is a violation of the code of conduct of the Election Act 2017.”
The by-election is scheduled to be held on April 29, which is a working day
He stated that Covid-19 cases in Karachi and specifically in the constituency were limited and all standard operating procedures were being followed as per the directives of the National Command and Operation Centre (NCOC).
“Moreover, Election Commission of Pakistan has already utilised a large budget for conducting this by-election, and postponement of the election would cause a great loss to the national exchequer and to the contesting candidates as well,” the letter added.
Mr Kamal requested the CEC to dismiss the applications of the Sindh government and the MQM-P “in the larger interest of the people of the constituency, province and country”. The ECP could also ensure further stringent SOPs for the polling day, he added.
Earlier on Tuesday, PML-N candidate Miftah Ismail also sent a letter to the ECP saying that the ruling party in Sindh had realised its defeat and thus wanted to delay the by-election on NA-249.
He stated that the coronavirus situation in Karachi was not as bad as mentioned by the Sindh government, and the ECP could introduce stricter SOPs to ensure safe polling.
He said if the by-election was postponed, the ruling party would announce development schemes and ensure water supply in the constituency just to influence the voters.
In its letter to the CEC, the Sindh government had claimed that the country was hit by the third wave of Covid-19 and the positivity ratio was increasing in Karachi and Hyderabad. It requested the ECP to postpone the NA-249 by-election.
The MQM-P in its letter had asked the ECP to postpone the April 29 by-election “till coronavirus situation is improved.
“Election also involves person-to-person contacts, convening close-door meetings, door-to-door canvassing, which is against the social distancing and SOPs as advised by the NCOC and other agencies,” it said, fearing the election campaign “may help in increasing virus manifold, which is against the advice and directions of the NCOC”.
Despite concerns expressed by several parties, the ECP had decided to continue with its plan to hold the by-election during Ramazan and on a weekday as April 29 falls on Thursday.
The NA-249 seat fell vacant following the resignation of Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf’s Faisal Vawda, who quit the seat after becoming a senator. He won the seat in the 2018 general election by defeating PML-N’s Shehbaz Sharif by a narrow margin.
This time around, all major parties including the PPP, PML-N, PTI, MQM-P and PSP have fielded their candidates for the upcoming contest.
Published in Dawn, April 22nd, 2021