MUZAFFARABAD: Azad Jammu and Kashmir’s Chief Election Commissioner (CEC) retired Justice Abdul Rashid Sulehria on Thursday announced that the delimitation process for the local bodies (LB) elections would be completed by Jan 24 as per orders of the region’s Supreme Court.

On Tuesday, the AJK apex court had directed the government and other authorities concerned to complete the delimitation of LB wards within 45 days and conduct polls not later than August 2022.

At a press conference along with Raja Farooq Niaz and Farhat Ali Mir, members of the commission, Mr Sulehria asserted that his institution had geared up for holding the long due LB polls in a transparent manner in the wake of the apex court judgement that had put an end to the litigation on the issue had been running since 2017.

Giving details, he said all deputy commissioners (DC) had been designated as chairmen of the delimitation committees of their districts concerned, with the district election officers concerned, assistant commissioners and, in case of requirement, officials from any department as members.

According to him, the preliminary draft of delimitation by the committees would be published between Jan 6 and Jan 9 while one week had been allocated for filing of objections, if any, against the process before the authority concerned which would hear and dispose of the same between Jan 8 and Jan 20.

Final delimitations, he said, would be forwarded by the committees to the commission between Jan 21 and Jan 24.

The CEC maintained that in order to provide voting rights to the maximum number of eligible persons, Feb 20 had been fixed as ‘qualifying date’ for the purpose of update, correction and amendments in electoral rolls prepared for July 2021 general elections.

“We have directed all authorities concerned to immediately start the process for enrolment of fresh voters,” he said.

In response to a question, Mr Sulehria maintained that the election commission had to hold elections while a decision about the system of local bodies, such as direct mayoral election, etc., was the prerogative of the government.

He said the government was expected to introduce amendments to the Election Commission Act and Local Government Act in consultation with the commission in a few days.

He made it clear that like that of the general elections, votes in the LB polls would also be cast on the basis of voters’ permanent place of residence as entered in their computerised national identity cards.

Published in Dawn, December 24th, 2021

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