PESHAWAR: The Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) on Thursday issued the revised schedule for the first phase of local body elections in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa to implement the order of the Peshawar High Court to hold the village and neighbourhood council elections on party basis.

However, the polling will take place on Dec 19 as scheduled.

A meeting of the ECP chaired by Chief Election Commissioner Sikandar Sultan Raja in Islamabad decided that a political party candidate at the time of filing nomination papers should mention the name of the party in the respective column and should submit his or her party ticket with the relevant returning officer on or before the date fixed for the allotment of symbols.

The meeting also attended by the ECP members and secretary, provincial election commissioner and other officials was convened in the wake of the Nov 2 order of a PHC bench, which declared unconstitutional the provision of law providing for the holding of village and neighbourhood council elections on non-party basis.

ECP discusses court order for party-based polls, says voting to be held on Dec 19

Through a notification, the ECP issued the revised election schedule. However, the polling date of Dec 19 was unchanged.

The filing of nomination papers will take place from Nov 4 to Nov 10. Earlier, the last date for filing of papers was Nov 8.

Publication of names of nominated candidates will take place on Nov 11, whereas scrutiny of papers will be held from Nov 12 to Nov 14. Appeals against acceptance or rejection of nomination papers will be filed from Nov 15 to 17.

Nov 19 has been set as the last date for decision on appeals, while the revised list of candidates will be published the following day.

According to the schedule, Nov 22 will be the last date for withdrawal of candidature. Election symbols will be allotted the next day (Nov 23) and the final list of contesting candidates will be published the same day.

According to the schedule, consolidation of results is to be completed by Dec 24.

The ECP has also sent letters to all returning officers instructing them to conduct village and neighbourhood council elections on party basis.

The ROs have further been instructed to advise the candidates that they may mention party names in the “declaration by the candidate” column in the nomination papers (Form IV) if they wished to contest election on behalf of a political party.

The ECP issued the revised schedule under Section 58 of the Elections Act, 2017, read with Rule 15(4) of KP Local Council (Conduct of Elections) Rules, 2021.

The commission has also announced that a political party can allot tickets to as many candidates in a village and neighbourhood council as having the number of seats in a particular category of members in that council.

The districts, where elections are to be held in the first phase, include Buner, Bajaur, Swabi, Peshawar, Nowshera, Kohat, Karak, Dera Ismail Khan, Bannu, Tank, Haripur, Khyber, Mohmand, Charsadda, Hangu and Lakki Marwat.

Elections will be held in two tiers of the local governments in the said 17 districts, including village and neighbourhood councils and tehsil councils.

Before the PHC decision, elections of the tehsil council’s chairman were to be held on party basis and those village and neighbourhood councils on non-party basis.

In the fresh notification, the ECP has again barred holders of public offices from visiting any council for the local government polls, from unveiling any development scheme and using of state resources for influencing voters in favour of a particular candidate.

The decision applies, among others, to the president, the prime minister, the chief minister, the governor, as well as all federal and provincial ministers. They have also been directed not to visit any local council. However, if someone is resident of the district where elections are being held, he or she may go there but won’t take part in any political activity.

The ECP said any government employee found to have misused his official position in any manner in order to influence results of the elections would be liable to prosecution.

Published in Dawn, November 5th, 2021

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