ISLAMABAD: The Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) on Tuesday rejected a set of petitions seeking to postpone the second phase of local government (LG) polls in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KP) and declared that the elections will take place on March 31 as per the already issued revised schedule.

The petitioners, who incl­uded candidates, wanted postponement of polls for six weeks over inclement weather conditions in the hilly areas. They had also pleaded that many residents of these areas had temporarily moved to Punjab and a postponement, if not allowed would mean their disenfranchisement.

The KP advocate general sought deferment of the LG polls’ second phase for four months on the grounds of weather and security concerns. The ECP bench headed by Chief Election Commis­sioner Sikandar Sultan Raja said the decision was in compliance with the Supreme Court’s directives given a day earlier for deciding the matter by Tuesday.

Through a Feb 9 notification, the ECP had already extended the date for the second phase of LG elections in the province from March 27 to 31 after the apex court had suspended the Feb 1 order of the Peshawar High Court (PHC) for postponing the polls.

On Monday, the Supreme Court observed that it would not like to set any wrong precedence by suspending the election schedule, but asked the ECP to come up with an appropriate order after listening to the aggrieved parties and the respondents, namely the KP chief secretary, secretary of the Coordination Unit of Local Government Election and Rural Development Depart­ment, Fida Mohammad and Gul Badshah.

Advocate Afnan Karim Kundi, representing the ECP, had argued that the commission had already extended the poll date to March 31 to accommodate the delay caused by the PHC judgement.

Initially, the second phase of LG polls in 18 districts of KP was to be held in the last week of January, but it was rescheduled by the ECP through a Dec 30, 2021 order on applications filed by local MNAs and MPAs.

On Jan 20 this year, the ECP had issued a notification announcing the holding of second phase of LG elections on March 27.

But on Feb 1, the PHC’s Abbottabad bench had in a verbal order postponed the elections after accepting petitions of the residents of five districts on the grounds that these districts were expected to remain under snow in the last week of March due to heavy snow accumulation and, therefore, it would not be possible to set up polling stations, dispatch polling staff and procure requisite record and other instruments.

Published in Dawn, February 16th, 2022

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