The Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) on Tuesday maintained that local body elections in Karachi and by-polls for national and provincial assemblies will take place on their scheduled dates.

The ECP had previously announced October 23 as the date for local government elections in Karachi division and Oct 16 as the date for by-elections in 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).

In a meeting of the commission today, Chief Election Commissioner Sikandar Sultan Raja emphasised the importance of holding the elections peacefully.

ECP Secretary Omar Hamid Khan informed the meeting's participants that the commission had completed all its arrangements and was ready to hold the polls. He, however, added that the stance of the provincial governments and security institutions regarding the availability of their services during elections was required to ensure the provision of a peaceful environment to voters on polling day.

After the meeting, the ECP decided that all by-polls — apart from NA-45 (Kurram-I) due to the law and order situation — would be held on time, along with the Karachi local body elections.

The ECP said that the date for the Kurram by-election would be announced later.

The watchdog's decision comes after the federal government, via a letter from the interior ministry on Friday, requested the electoral watchdog to put off the by-polls for 90 days due to security institutions and provincial administrations being busy in relief, rescue, and rehabilitation operations after the floods.

The interior ministry had argued that holding the elections in such an environment would place "tremendous strain" on the capacity of the security institutions and may lead to the credibility of the by-polls being questioned.

The letter had also referred to "credible reports" of a political party planning to "besiege" Islamabad between Oct 12-17, coinciding with the Oct 16 by-poll date.

The interior ministry had said that such an event would require the "maximum deployment of all available troops" to maintain peace in the federal capital.

Additionally, the ECP last week had turned down the Sindh government’s request to put off local government elections in Karachi division for three months.

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 had directed the Sindh government to ensure police deployment from the districts where the flood situation was better for holding local government polls on Oct 23 in Karachi.

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 flooding crisis.

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