ISLAMABAD: Rejecting the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa government’s plan to hold local government polls in the province in three phases, the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) on Thursday expressed its desire for completion of the electoral process for the lowest tier of government by March 2022.
The commission, which met here with Chief Election Commissioner Sikandar Sultan Raja in the chair, however, agreed to the KP proposal for holding of the first phase of LG elections in December this year.
The meeting was attended by the members and senior officers of the ECP. Provincial Minister for Food Mohammad Atif Khan, Chief Secretary Dr Kazim Niaz, the advocate general and local government secretary appeared before the commission on behalf of the KP government.
The KP government representatives had suggested holding the first phase of local government elections for village and neighbourhood councils in two phases — the first in December and the second in May next year — and said the decision on elections for tehsil councils would be taken later.
Agrees to proposal for holding first phase of elections in December this year
The ECP, however, observed that tehsil council polls should also be held side by side so that all local governments in districts where the elections are held could become functional. The commission noted that the measure would also reduce the expenditure. The ECP said it wanted to complete all phases of elections by March 2022.
The meeting was informed that the ECP had on September 21 heard a case regarding holding of LG elections in KP in which the provincial government had said it wanted to hold elections in phases. The ECP had directed the KP government to give details of the districts included in the first phase, as well as other relevant details, without waiting for a written order of the commission so that the first phase of elections could be held in December 2021, but nothing had been received from the provincial government and, therefore, today’s (Thursday) meeting was convened.
When the KP government’s representatives said consultations on the elections for tehsil councils would take place after the second phase of LG polls in May, the commission made it clear that after this meeting the ECP would issue an order on the date of the first phase.
It noted that the consultation process had been completed. It was made clear that the commission was fully prepared for the elections and the KP government would provide details about the second phase within a week.
The KP government had last month decided to hold LG elections in phased and staggered manners keeping in view the weather conditions. The decision was taken at a cabinet meeting presided over by KP Chief Minister Mahmood Khan.
Special Assistant to the Chief Minister on Information and Higher Education Kamran Bangash, while briefing reporters after the cabinet meeting, had said it was decided to hold the upcoming LG polls in phases starting with village council (VC)/neighbourhood council (NC) elections but that too in a staggered manner keeping in view the weather conditions.
He said the LG elections for tehsils would be held after VC/NC elections, adding that the elections would be held first in plain areas of the province.
Earlier this year, the KP government had changed its plan of holding the LG elections for tehsil and village/neighbourhood councils in two phases and instead decided to hold the polls for both tiers together. For holding separate elections for both tiers, the local government department had also amended the KP Local Government Act 2013 last year.
The ECP had, however, termed the decision unwise, saying it would need double cost and energy.
Meanwhile, a two-member ECP bench on Thursday took up for hearing a case regarding holding of LG elections in Balochistan.
The commission was informed that the Balochistan chief secretary and local government secretary had received notices for Thursday’s hearing.
The chief secretary wrote to the commission that he was unable to appear before it owing to the law and order situation in the province, but promised that the LG secretary would be present during the hearing.
The local government secretary conveyed to the ECP that his flight had been canceled on October 13 and, therefore, he cannot appear before it.
The commission, while taking strong notice of this, issued an order requiring the chief secretary and LG secretary to appear in person on October 21. The ECP warned that action would be taken in accordance with the law in case of violation of the order.
Published in Dawn, October 15th, 2021