KARACHI: The Election Commission of Pakistan on Thursday informed the Sindh High Court that the schedule for upcoming local government elections in Sindh was announced after consultation with the provincial government.

The ECP in its comments further submitted that the Sindh chief secretary during a meeting held in March at the ECP Secretariat had recommended that the LG polls be held in phases. The commission had agreed with the proposal and decided to conduct elections in two phases.

It contended that around 30 million ballot papers of different categories for the first phase had already been printed while 21,298 candidates were participating in the first phase whereas 29,707 candidates had filled their nomination papers for the second phase.

The ECP submitted that all the political parties including the petitioner party [MQM-P] were contesting the upcoming LG elections and the same could not be withheld or stayed on the wish and whim of a political party.

ECP opposes MQM-P’s petition, further hearing today

The ECP law officer Abdullah Hanjra filed comments in a petition of the Muttahida Qaumi Movement-Pakistan against delimitation process for LG constituencies and demarcation of towns in Karachi.

Representing the MQM-P, former federal law minister Dr Farogh Naseem sought copies of ECP’s reply to file a rejoinder and also partly argued the matter.

A two-judge bench headed by Justice Mohammad Junaid Ghaffar adjourned the matter for Friday (today).

Dr Naseem argued that all the political parties including the ruling PPP were in the favour of amending the Sindh Local Government Act 2013 before the LG election, adding that a select committee comprising lawmakers of all the major opposition parties as well as the ruling PPP had also recommended postponement of upcoming local government elections in Sindh in order to make necessary amendments to the law.

In the first phase, the polling is to be held on June 26 in four divisions -- Sukkur, Larkana, Mirpurkhas and Shaheed Benazirabad -- while in the second phase, the polling would be held in Karachi and Hyderabad divisions on July 24.

The ECP in its reply further submitted that a meeting of ECP with consultation of Sindh government to determine polling dates for LG elections was held on March 10, and chief secretary and secretary local government Sindh had informed the ECP that the provincial government was ready to assist the commission for conducting LG elections in the province and showed full support for necessary administrative arrangements in this regard.

It further maintained that the delimitation had been carried out by ECP officers in accordance with law and rules and objections were invited and decided by the delimitation authority after hearing both sides.

The ECP vehemently denied that functionaries of the Sindh government had been induced to exercise functions as part of the delimitation authorities, and argued that the commission had constituted the delimitation authority from amongst its own officers for disposal of objections. However, declaring rural areas ‘urban’ and demarcation of boundaries was the sole prerogative of Sindh government as provided under the SLG Act 2013, it added.

The ECP argued that the instant petition was devoid of merit, and pleaded for its dismissal.

MQM-P convener Dr Khalid Maqbool Siddiqui along with other party leaders have petitioned the SHC stating that the delimitation and town demarcations were made on ethnic and linguistic grounds and with mala fide considerations.

Published in Dawn, June 24th, 2022

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