• PPP says poll date to be decided in view of ‘ground realities’
• PTI, JI see victory in decision of ‘election within 60 days’
• MQM-P believes no excuse is left for not holding delimitation

KARACHI: Keeping in view their own perspective and interpretations with different angles and thoughts, political stakeholders of urban Sindh, including opposing and ruling parties, on Friday welcomed the judgement of the Sindh High Court (SHC) regarding its directive to the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) to hold local government election in Karachi and Hyderabad divisions within 60 days.

The ruling Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) saw the order of the court as a testament to its plea to authorise only the ECP for fixing the date of the polls while the Jamaat-i-Islami (JI) and Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI) called it a loud and clear message for voting within two months and the Muttahida Qaumi Movement-Pakistan (MQM-P) took it as a time given for fresh delimitation before the polls.

Administrator of Karachi and spokesman for the Sindh government Barrister Murtaza Wahab welcomed the SHC verdict and insisted on a few shortcomings for the provincial administration to ensure free and fair elections. He referred to shortage of police force due to “duties in flood-affected areas” as one of the major reasons behind its plea to delay the polls.

“Ensuring a free and fair election is a key challenge amid thousands of sensitive and highly sensitive police stations which demand strong deployment of security officials,” he said in a statement.

While referring to the number of available forces deployed in flood-hit areas in Sindh and required number of policemen on the day of voting, he said the Sindh government would face a shortage of 17,000 personnel.

“But we welcome the SHC decision which has tasked the Election Commission with the job of fixing the date for the elections. Now it would be up to the Election Commission to decide on the basis of ground realities and facts,” he added.

Senior PTI leader Firdous Shamim Naqvi also hailed the verdict.

“It’s a very positive and historic decision from the SHC and now it’s up to the PPP government to comply with the court orders,” he said.

“The PPP knows it well that they can’t claim any major victory if the PTI appears as its opponent.”

He said that the ruling party was running away from the local government elections out of fear of the defeat as it was making illogical excuses.

Jamaat-i-Islami (JI) Karachi chief Hafiz Naeem ur Rehman also welcomed the high court’s verdict and called it a very clear order from the court to the Election Commission for announcement of date within 15 days for holding local government elections in Karachi.

While addressing a press conference at Idara Noor-i-Haq, he asked the ECP to issue the final date for the polls in accordance with the court order.

He demanded that the election commission bind the PPP government in Sindh to take all necessary measures in order to hold local government elections as soon as possible.

“The Election Commission is already scheduled for announcing a verdict on the same issue on November 22. We represented aspirations of Karachiites at a recent hearing by the Election Commission over local government polls in Karachi while the PPP and MQM-P were opposing holding of the local government polls in the city,” he added.

The leaders of the MQM-P addressing a press conference at the party’s temporary headquarters in Bahadurabad kept their focus on fresh delimitation and asked the ruling parties both in Sindh and the Centre to play their role for these crucial reforms.

“Even if the local government elections are held, it would not give any benefit to people of Karachi,” said Khawaja Izharul Hasan, who was accompanied by former Karachi mayor Wasim Akhtar. “We are only pleading for an empowered local government system and unfortunately this issue is not being raised by parties like Jamaat-i-Islami and the PTI. They are just overconfident and want elections on the current delimitations.”

He said it was his party which moved to the Supreme Court and won the apex court verdict for empowerment and autonomy for the local government institutions in Sindh.

He said the apex court in its verdict had clearly ordered the Sindh government to devolve financial, administrative and political powers to local government as enshrined under the Constitution.

“But there’s no implementation in true spirit. The high court has given enough space for the next local government elections and it’s time that we go for fresh delimitation and make local government truly effective,” he added.

Published in Dawn, November 19th, 2022

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