ISLAMABAD: The Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) on Tuesday turned down the Sindh government’s request to put off local government elections in Karachi division for three months.

The decision was taken at a meeting presided over by Chief Election Commissioner Sikandar Sultan Raja.

Stressing that it was the responsibility of the provincial government and the law enforcement agencies to provide security and ensure law and order during elections, the ECP directed the Sindh government to ensure police deployment from the districts where flood situation was better for holding local government polls on Oct 23 in Karachi.

The ECP made it clear that holding local government elections on time was its constitutional obligation. The meeting was told that it was in contact with the defence and the interior ministries to seek deployment of army or Rangers at sensitive polling stations in Karachi.

Seeks deployment of army, Rangers for Oct 16 by-elections on nine NA and three PA seats

The second phase of the local government elections in Sindh was originally scheduled to take place on July 24. However, it was postponed twice due to unprecedented rains and flood situation.

Earlier, ECP Secretary Omar Hamid Khan in his briefing said the Sindh government had requested the ECP to once again postpone the second phase of the local government elections in Karachi division citing the shortage of police personnel to maintain the law and order during polling.

In a letter to the ECP, the Sindh government highlighted the shortage of police due to rescue and relief work in the flood-hit districts of the province. It mentioned that the police were not available for security as they were busy in relief and rehabilitation activities.

“The enormous shortfall of manpower required for local govt elections cannot be met without deployment of police force from interior Sindh which is unavailable for three months due to flood relief activities,” the provincial govt told the ECP.

The meeting was also told that only 25 per cent of the required funds had been received for the LG elections and the lack of funds was creating trouble in the conduct of the polls.

The meeting was also informed that Rs600 million sought for holding by-elections on 12 national and provincial assembly constituencies scheduled for October 27 were yet to be received.

The ECP expressed alarm and feared that holding of polls would not be possible if funds were not received timely.

Army deployment sought for Oct 16 by-elections

The meeting was also informed that letters had been written to ministries of defence and interior seeking deployment of army, Rangers and Frontier Corps outside sensitive polling stations during the Oct 16 by-polls on nine National Assembly and three provincial assembly constituencies.

These include NA-22 (Mardan-III), NA-24 (Charsadda-II),NA-31 (Peshawar-V), NA-45 (Kurram-I), NA-108 (Faisalabad-VIII), NA-118 (Nankana Sahib-II), NA-237 (Malir-II), NA-239 (Korangi-I), NA-157 (Multan-IV), PP-139 (Sheikhupura-V), PP-241 (Bahawalnagar-V) and PP-209 (Khanewal-VII).

A day earlier, the ECP secretary sent a letter to the defence secretary stating that the present atmosphere in the 12 constituencies was politically charged.

“The presence of militant elements in certain areas has increased the risk manifold, especially in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa. Experiences of ECP with recently conducted by-election of NA-240 Korangi-Karachi-II, PP-167 Lahore and Sindh Local Government Elections Phase-I shows that police alone was unable to control the scale of violence due to restrictions with their numbers thus resulting in violence spiralling out of control,” it said.

“Keeping in view the law & order situation in the areas/constituencies, it is reiterated that personnel of the Pakistan Rangers Punjab, Sindh and Frontier Corps (FC) in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa at each sensitive polling station be deployed in static mode with enhanced QRF deployment of Pakistan Army to ensure smooth conduct of said by-elections,” it said.

Published in Dawn, October 5th, 2022

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