ISLAMABAD: The Election Com­­mission of Pakistan (ECP) has postponed the second phase of local government polls in nine districts of Hyderabad until the weather improves.

ECP spokesperson Haroon Shinwari officially confirmed the development in a late-night statement on Tuesday, saying the decision was taken in view of the havoc wreaked by floods, the displacement of people, recommendations of the provincial election commissioner and district administration and weather reports.

The commission would meet today (Wednesday) to review the local body elections in Karachi division, considering several issues raised by the Sindh government and the weather situation.

The ECP’s decision came just a month after it postponed the second phase of local government elections in Sindh.

Informed sources earlier told Dawn Chief Election Commissioner Sikandar Sultan Raja on Tuesday chaired a meeting, which besides other matters also discussed challenges posing scheduled electoral exercises in Sindh and Balochistan.

The provincial election commissioner of Sindh, who attended the meeting through a video link, gave a briefing on the flood situation received from district administration, indicating that the LG polls in most parts of Karachi were possible as per the schedule on Aug 28 if no more rains fall.

He was advised by the chief election commissioner to seek a fresh assessment from the deputy commissioners concerned and submit a report along with his recommendation.

Polling was due to be held on Aug 28 in total of 16 districts — East, West, South, Central, Korangi, Kea­mari and Malir of Karachi division; and Hyderabad, Dadu, Jamsh­oro, Matiari, Tando Mohammad Khan, Tando Allahyar, Badin, Sujawal and Thatta of Hyderabad division.

The second phase of the local body elections was originally going to be held on July 24 but on July 20 it was put off till Aug 28, citing possible rains and bad weather as the reason.

This time again, the situation on the ground appeared to be compelling the ECP to further delay the polls.

The deputy commissioner of Ko­­r­angi approached the provincial ele­ction commission seeking to postpone the local government polls in some union councils of the districts.

In a letter, the DC pointed out that the ongoing monsoon spell had played havoc on some union councils of Korangi. He said that many polling stations and school buildings had been affected due to rains, and the surrounding areas were still under rainwater.

Besides, more torrential rains were predicted in Karachi, the DC noted, adding that conduct of polls and supply of election material would not be possible if more rains hit the district.

Similarly, the Malir deputy commissioner wrote a letter to the ECP inviting its attention to the havoc wreaked by the monsoon rains on the district. He said several populated areas were still inaccessible and deprived of basic amenities due to heavy downpours.

Earlier, Deputy Commissioners of Jamshoro and Tando Allahyar districts had also requested the election commission to delay the second phase of the local government elections in Sindh.

DC Jamshoro and Tando Allahyar districts in their letters to the election commission had pleaded for postponement of the second phase of the LG Polls in their districts for 45 and 60 days, respectively.

The situation in many areas of Hyderabad division was said to be alarming with the flooding still making the transportation of election material an uphill task.

On Aug 17, the Supreme Court ordered the ECP to go ahead with the second phase of local government elections in Sindh as per the announced schedule.

After three days of continuous hearing on a set of petitions, a three-judge Supreme Court bench made a specific mention of an intervener — Jamaat-i-Islami’s (JI) Karachi chief Naeemur Rehman — who had regr­etted that local polls were already behind schedule by over two years.

While disposing of the matter, a short order dictated by Chief Justice of Pakistan Umar Ata Bandial said the process of holding the local government elections could not be stopped at this stage.

Published in Dawn, August 24th, 2022

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