PESHAWAR: The Election Commission of Pakistan on Monday rescheduled the second phase of local body elections in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa’s 18 districts from Jan 16 to March 27 due to harsh weather at the request of the provincial government and political parties.

The first phase of the LG polls was held in 17 districts on Dec 19.

The decision of election rescheduling was made during a hearing into the applications of political parties by a three-member ECP bench consisting of its chairman Sikandar Sultan Raja, Nisar Ahmed Durrani and Shah Mohammad Jatoi as members.

Applications were submitted to the ECP for the election rescheduling by different political leaders, including Abbottabad MNA Murtaza Javed Abbasi, Mansehra MPA Sardar Mohammad Yousaf, Sadeedur Rehman of Shangla, Ihtisham Khursheed of Mansehra and Ajmal Khan of Battagram.

They had sought the postponement of elections until April 2022 insisting in light of the topographic and weather conditions in the remaining districts of the province like Abbottabad, Mansehra, Battagram, Kohistan, Torghar, Swat, Shangla, Chitral, Lower and Upper Dir and other hilly areas, it would not be possible for voters to come out and vote for the candidates as the entire region is covered with snow, read an order issued by the ECP on Monday.

According to the ECP, the applicants had stated that due to blockage of roads and other communication modes, the process of election may be affected and about 80 per cent of voters may be deprived of voting due to a lack of transportation and other communication modes.

Secretary of the local government department Shakeel Ahmed, who was also heard by the bench, approved the request of the applicants in the case as well as in the connected matter and requested for the holding of elections of the second phase in May 2022 or at the end of March before Ramazan.

The ECP observed that the chief secretary, through a letter on Dec 29, has again drawn the attention of the commission towards difficulties, which could be faced during elections in the 2nd phase.

He said most districts, where the second phase of elections were to be held, would be snow-bound in Jan and Feb making the electoral process almost impossible.

The chief secretary, in the letter, also referred to the report of the deputy commissioners of 18 districts, whereby they have reported to him that almost one-third of the village and neighbourhood councils would be inaccessible to the electors due to snow and adverse weather conditions.

The commission observed that no doubt, it was the constitutional duty of the ECP to hold elections and make such arrangements as were necessary to ensure that election is conducted honestly, justly, fairly and in accordance with law and that corrupt practices are guarded against.

It added that the right of the vote was also a fundamental right and this commission had to ensure that no voter, who was entitled to cast vote by the law, was disenfranchised by any means and the maximum participation of the electors in the electoral process while holding free and fair elections.

“This commission [ECP] in the exercise of its inherent powers accedes to the request of the petitioners in the instant matter and orders holding of 2nd phase elections on 27th march instated of 16th January,” reads the order of the commission,” it said.

Meanwhile, the ECP also issued schedule for the holding local body elections on various seats of local councils, where polling was terminated due to the death of contesting candidates in the first phase of elections held on Dec 19, 2021.

According to the schedule, elections will be held on Feb 13 in such areas.

The returning officers had terminated elections on the different seats in DI Khan, Mardan, Charsadda, Lakki Marwat, Bajaur and Kohat. According to the schedule, public notice to be issued on Jan 7 by the returning officers inviting nomination papers and dates for filing nomination papers with the returning officers from Jan 10 to Jan 12, while the names of the nominated candidates will be published on Jan 13.

On Jan 17 and Jan 18, the candidates will file appeals against the decisions of the ROs rejected and accepted nomination papers, while the last date for deciding of appeals by the appellate tribunal is Jan 21.

Last date for the withdrawal of candidature and publication of revised list of candidates is Jan 24, while Jan 25 is fixed for the allotment of election symbols to the candidates and publication of list contesting candidates.

Our correspondent from Dera Ismail Khan adds: The ECP has announced that the election for the office of Dera Ismail Khan tehsil mayor will be held on Feb 13.

The election was postponed due to the murder of Awami National Party candidate Umar Khattab Sherani.

Published in Dawn, January 4th, 2022

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