The Sindh High Court (SHC) on Friday asked the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) to issued the schedule for local body elections in Karachi and Hyderabad within 15 days, adding that the polls should preferably be conducted within 60 days.

Last month, the electoral watchdog had postponed the polls in seven Karachi districts for the third time in line with a request made by the Sindh government — due to floods — prompting criticism from the PTI and Jamaat-i-Islami (JI), which had been campaigning heavily in the city.

Meanwhile, the polls in nine districts of Hyderabad were postponed in light of the havoc wrought by the floods.

Earlier this week, the SHC had reserved its verdict in the case after hearing all parties in the PTI’s and JI’s pleas against the postponement of the polls.

Sindh Advocate General Hasan Akbar, PTI MPA Khurram Sher Zaman, Sindh Inspector General Ghulam Nabi Memon, appeared in court today.

In the detailed verdict, a copy of which is available with Dawn.com, SHC Chief Justice Ahmed Ali M. Shaikh said that the court would “not go so far as to dictate the date of the election or direct the manner in which the same ought to be conducted or policed, but would note that the ECP may notify the polling date, preferably within a period of 15 days from the date of this order, specifying a fresh polling date […] so as to preferably conclude the overall exercise of the election in any event within a total period of 60 days”.

The SHC CJ directed the government to ensure that requisite assistance is rendered to the electoral watchdog while the provincial chief secretary and the inspector general were told to ensure that “any preparatory or organisational steps” are taken in advance.

In the verdict, the SHC CJ said:“ Allegorically, much water has flowed since the advent of the floods, and it is questionable whether the continued preoccupation of law enforcement personnel in relief operations remains so emergent with the efflux of time as to constitute a valid cause for their being withheld from election duty.“

Justice Shaikh noted that the polls had been repeatedly postponed for almost four months, with no definite date in sight. “Suffice it to say that there has been considerable time for an appropriate solution to have been found, and the matter cannot indefinitely be kept in abeyance by the provincial administration continuing to withhold the aid it is duty-bound to provide to the ECP on the same pretext.”

In the previous hearing, the advocate general had filed reports about the strength and deployment of the police and Rangers.

Sindh Election Commissioner Ejaz Anwar Chauhan told the bench that the ECP was ready to hold the elections, but there was the issue of the availability of police to provide security.

When the chief justice asked IGP Ghulam Nabi Memon about the provision of police personnel, he stated that they were facing a shortage due to various reasons. He said that around 25,000 policemen had been deployed during the 2015 LG polls in Karachi, but now around 45,000 policemen were required for the purpose after incidents of violence were reported during a by-election in Korangi.

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