The Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) on Tuesday decided to postpone local government elections in Karachi for a third time, according to a press release from the electoral watchdog.
The decision was taken following a third request by the Sindh government seeking postponement for three months of the LG polls in seven districts of Karachi, scheduled for October 23.
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 the flooding crisis.
The Sindh government stated that there were difficulties in providing security for the polls as it is facing a shortage of 16,000 police personnel.
According to the press release, the ECP had no other option than to postpone the LG elections since “peaceful conduct of the election and the protection of the voters” was its top priority.
The ECP decided to hold another meeting after 15 days to gain feedback from the provincial government and other law enforcement agencies to ensure that local body polls are conducted as soon as possible and a date fixed for them.
The press release explained that the ECP had written to the interior ministry to ensure the provision of Pakistan Army soldiers and Rangers to compensate for the shortage of police personnel but the ministry responded that such a measure was not possible.
The interior ministry had informed the ECP that the army and Rangers could, albeit, be provided as a quick reaction force. The ministry’s response compelled the ECP to delay polls for the time being, the press release added.
Separately, it also said that by-elections for NA-45 Kurram will be held on Oct 30 and the necessary instructions have been issued in this regard to institutions to complete their arrangements.
The Kurram by-election was originally postponed from Oct 16 due to the law and order situation in the constituency.
Responding to the development, PTI Secretary General Asad Umar claimed the “imported government ran away again”. “How long will you run?” he questioned.
PTI leader Shireen Mazari said the decision removed any doubt about “the bias embedded in present ECP”.
Jamaat-i-Islami (JI) emir Sirajul Haq also lashed out at the postponement, alleging that the ECP took the decision in connivance with the provincial and federal governments after foreseeing the JI’s victory.
“The parties claiming democracy are the enemies of democracy and are involved in a conspiracy to deprive the largest city of its fundamental right,” he tweeted.
JI Karachi chief Hafiz Naeem-ur-Rehman also criticised the ECP’s move, adding that an “anti-Karachi, anti-people [and] anti-democracy decision” was unacceptable.