MUZAFFARABAD: The Election Commission (EC) Azad Jammu and Kashmir (AJK) on Friday announced an amended schedule for the long overdue local bodies (LB) polls, fixing Nov 27 for polling.

According to a notification issued by EC Secretary Sardar Mohammad Ghazanfar, nomination papers could be filed before the concerning returning officers (ROs) from Friday (Oct 14) to next Friday (Oct 21) while the last date of withdrawal of nominations was Oct 29 till 2pm.

Polling would be held from 8am to 5pm on Nov 27 and results would be consolidated soon after the close of polling on receipt of the same from the presiding officers, it added.

Earlier, the AJK Supreme Court had directed the government to hold LB polls by Oct 15, 2022, following which the EC had announced the schedule for the purpose, fixing Sept 28 for polling.

Angry at the EC’s decision in the face of allegedly controversial delimitations, flawed voters’ lists and some other allied issues, the government with the backing of opposition PPP and PML-N had moved a constitutional amendment bill in the Legislative Assembly to create a separate constitutional body for holding LB polls.

Simultaneously, the government had also moved an application in the apex court to gain an extension in the deadline for polls until mid 2023.

However, in its decision on Aug 19, the AJK apex court had turned down the government’s plea and had directed that the exercise should be held by Nov 30 this year.

Directive to government

In the wake of the announcement of schedule, the EC sent a detailed directive to the government, banning appointments and transfers as well as creation of new posts to ensure impartiality of the exercise. However, in unavoidable circumstances, EC’s prior permission would have to be obtained.

Meanwhile, AJK Prime Minister Sardar Tanveer Ilyas said the announcement regarding the [holding of] LB polls after a gap of more than three decades was a clear manifestation of the seriousness and sincerity of the PTI government to devolve powers to the grassroots level.

Published in Dawn, October 15th, 2022

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