ISLAMABAD: The Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) on Tuesday ordered an inquiry into the violence-marred local government elections in Sindh and decided to hold a meeting in Lahore with Punjab government, Rangers and army officials to finalise a security plan for the upcoming by-polls in 20 Punjab Assembly constituencies.

ECP Secretary Omar Hamid Khan was tasked with the inquiry and recommendations for the upcoming electoral exercise, keeping in view the performance of provincial election commissioner of Sindh and other officers, during the meeting that met here with Chief Election Commis­sioner Sikandar Sultan Raja in the chair for two consecutive days.

All ECP members, secretary and other officers concerned attended the meeting and the provincial election commissioner of Sindh was connected via a video link.

The ECP also decided that the army and Rangers personnel would be requisitioned for the NA 245 by-election scheduled for July 27 and ‘preferably’ they would be deployed inside ‘sensitive’ polling stations. Also, troops would be deployed for the second phase of Sindh local government elections, it decided.

Commission plans to meet Punjab, Rangers, army officials to ensure security during upcoming by-polls in 20 Punjab Assembly constituencies

The Provincial Election Commi­ssioner (PEC) and Joint Election Commissioner, Sindh, were asked to explain their performance in the elections. The PEC was also directed to take strict action against the staff for failing to attend to election duty and refer their case to the ECP.

At the meeting, direction was issued to Sindh police chief to take action against those responsible for the two deaths, identify any candidate or political leader, if involved in the incidents, so that the ECP could proceed accordingly, file a report on the ‘abduction’ of staff from Kandhkot municipal committee and its UC-28 within three days.

Also, the PEC was asked to inquire into the misconduct of Kiran Kumar, the son of an MPA, with a female presiding officer and submit a report so that the ECP could take action against him. While taking strict notice of wrong allotment of symbols and printing in 13 categories at some polling stations, the ECP directed the PEC to identify the officers responsible within three days for necessary action against them.

Terming local government elections the ‘backbone of democracy’, CEC Raja urged all political leaders to keep sentiments of their voters and supporters cool and facilitate the ECP in conduct of peaceful polls. He expressed deep sorrow over the two deaths during the polls and expressed his displeasure over violence.

Earlier, the ECP secretary in a briefing apprised the participants in the meeting about the first phase of local government polls during which two people died. He explained polling had to be suspended at 30 polling stations due to unrest and violence in 10 districts that left eight people injured. Elections were also postponed due to allotment of wrong poll symbols. In all, he said, polling was postponed at 74 polling stations.

The ECP secretary said re-poll would be required at only 74 polling stations of the total 9,023 polling stations due to various incidents.

The PEC said he was in touch with Sindh officials concerned, Rangers and army and action was taken within the shortest time, wherever problems had occurred. In the 2015 Sindh local government elections, he recalled, 15 people reportedly died and 24 other were injured.

Published in Dawn, June 29th, 2022

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