KARACHI: Several issues came to the fore during a ‘dialogue with media and civil society for inclusive elections in Sindh’ organised by the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) at a local hotel here on Wednesday.

Someone representing the civil society wanted to know how the police, Rangers and military are going to be deployed to maintain peace during the elections as there are fears of violence breaking out during the time. The media wanted a dedicated ECP spokesperson to keep reporters updated or perhaps hold regular briefings. They also wanted to know if there would be anyone monitoring the activities of politicians.

The transgender community informed that many among them still did not have their computerised national identity cards and that was a problem because being politically aware now, they also wanted to be part of the election process. They also asked for a separate queue and booths for transgender persons.

The handicapped wanted elevators or ramps for wheelchair accessibility.

Earlier, ECP’s official Quratul Ain Fatima said that free and transparent elections was the right of people and their aim for holding the dialogue was to spread awareness regarding the elections as well as receive feedback from the civil society and the media about what they think should be done as regards the elections.

“The civil society and the media have a close relationship. The media helps in highlighting the issues of the civil society so we have invited you both for this dialogue,” she said, adding that the ECP, too, had done rationalisation, restructuring, etc, for the holding of fair elections.

She also said that for spreading awareness among the youth, they were holding awareness programmes also at colleges and universities and so far they had held some 330 such events. Besides that they had also been holding media workshops at press clubs, starting with the press clubs in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, she said.

And since technology also could not be ignored in all that, they were also in the process of hiring IT consultants. Plus they would be setting up display centres for putting up voter lists so that the voters, who had been mistakenly been put in an area that was no longer theirs, could notify the ECP in time. That would also be helpful in the reporting of any discrepancies such as dead people making it to a voting list, she said.

On the occasion, Sindh ECP official Parvez Ahmed Kalhoro also made a presentation to discuss the code of conduct for the media.

He also explained briefly the history of the local government system from the panchayat system in rural areas during the pre-independence era till year 2000, devolution of power to lower institutions.

That was followed by the amendments after 2005 that included the 18th Amendment, inaction by provincial governments and the role of the Supreme Court of Pakistan in it all, he added. Then in 2013, there came the Sindh Local Government Act following which the councils and committees came about, he said.

Published in Dawn, May 26th, 2022

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