ISLAMABAD: Putting all the uncertainties to rest, the Election Commission of Pak­is­tan (ECP) on Tuesday ann­ounced that by-elections on eight national and three provincial assembly constituencies would be held as per the schedule.

A high-level meeting chaired by Chief Election Commissioner Sikandar Sultan Raja also decided to hold the second phase of Sindh local government elections on October 23.

The by-polls on eight out of 10 National Assembly seats, that had fallen vacant after the resignation of PTI lawmakers were accepted by NA Speaker Raja Pervaiz Ashraf, will take place on October 16. The poll on NA-45 (Kurram) will not take place due to the security situation, while one lawmaker, Abdul Shakoor Shad, has been reinstated by the Islamabad High Court after he had challenged acc­ep­tance of his resignation.

On Tuesday, defence and interior secretaries, provincial chief secretaries and inspectors-general and representatives of security agencies briefed the commission.The secretary of the election commission Omar Hamid Khan also briefed the participants on the preparations and said all arrangements for by-elections have been completed.

The NA constituencies where the polls will be held are: NA-22 Mardan-III, NA-24 Charsadda-II, NA-31 Peshawar-V, NA-108 Faisalabad-VIIII, NA-118 Nankana Sahib-II, NA-237 Malir-II and NA-239 Korangi Karachi-I. The three provincial assembly seats - all from Punjab are: PP-139 Sheikhupura-V, PP-209 Khanewal-VII and PP-241 Bahawalnagar-V. Meanwhile, the local government elections will take place in Karachi and Hyderabad divisions.

The polls were scheduled to take place earlier, but called off due to the non-availability of security personnel and flood situation in the country. The parties involved, once again, urged the ECP to postpone the polls on various pretexts.

The federal government had asked the commission to delay the by-elections for at least 90 days as a “political party” was planning to “besiege” the capital, a reference to PTI’s impending long march.

Additionally, the Sindh governments had expressed reservations over holding the LG polls due to unavailability of security personnel, among other reasons.

“On the basis of credible reports from Intelligence Agencies, it has transpired that a political party is planning to besiege the federal capital between October 12-17…..which coincides with the [election] date,” said a letter from the interior ministry to the ECP.

The letter added that in light of these reports, it was crucial to have all available resources in the capital to maintain peace.

The letter also mentioned that the Pakistan Army, Frontier Corps, Rangers and other LEAs were busy in flood-relief works in coordination with national and provincial disaster management authorities.

The Sindh government, while seeking the postponement of LG polls for the third time, had cited inadequate police resources to maintain the law and order situation as the reason.

“The inspector-general of police has provided a summary of deployment along with shortfall details informing that for the said elections, the police force will have to be arranged from districts of interior Sindh along with auxiliaries to meet the shortfall,” the letter stated.

The Sindh Police has expressed inability for the required assistance during the local body polls in Karachi and Hyderabad divisions, it said.

The polls on national and provincial assembly seats were earlier scheduled between Sept11 and Oct 2, while the second phase of the Singh LG polls was originally scheduled for July 24, but postponed twice.

Published in Dawn, October 12th, 2022

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