ISLAMABAD: After multiple delays in the local gove­rnment elections in two div­isions of Sindh, the Elec­tion Commission of Pakistan (ECP) on Tuesday finally ann­­ounced that the second phase of local bodies polls in Karachi and Hyderabad would be held on Jan 15.

Announcing the verdict it had reserved on Nov 15, the election watchdog asked the Sindh government, the chief secretary, and the provincial police chief to provide a “sufficient number of security personnel for election duty at the polling stations, offices of the district returning officers, returning officers, polling staff and transportation of polling material from and to the offices of the ROs”.

“For its part, the government of Sindh is directed to ensure that requisite assistance, whether by way of adequate security or otherwise is rendered to the ECP in the matter, as per Article 220 of the Constitution, and the chief secretary of Sindh and the inspector general of police are to ensure that any preparatory or organisational steps as are required for the purpose of taken well in advance of the dates so that any and all impediment in that regard are surmounted by then,” the ECP added.

The commission also asked the federal government and the interior secretary for a “sufficient number of security personnel from other law enforcement agencies” to conduct elections in a peaceful manner.

According to the ECP, local governments in Sindh expired on August 30, 2020, and the commission was under a constitutional and legal obligation to hold elections within 120 days after the expiry of the tenure. It said despite all possible efforts to conduct elections in the province, the Sindh government “acted in a manner to delay” the polls.

The election watchdog also cited a ruling of the Supreme Court which “held that after the 18th Constitutional Amendment that the ECP is charged with the duty of holding local government elections in terms of Article 140A(2) read with Article 219(d) of the Constitution”.

“The apex court further held that the provinces may have power to legislate but if there is no legislation or if there is defective legislation, the ECP is not absolved from performing its duties under the Constitution,” the ECP order read.

“As far as clause 2 of Article 140-A is concerned, it casts a duty upon the Election Commission to …always remain prepared to meet the challenges and whenever any request by the federal or the provincial government is made for holding elections, the ECP should comply with the same at the earliest,” it added.

It also referred to a judgement passed by the Supreme Court in March 2021 holding that “the matter of holding local government elections within the domain of the Commission as per Article 219(d)...and a province cannot dictate the commission, if and/or when, the same can be held”.

Polling will be held in 16 districts of Sindh -- East, West, South, Central, Korangi, Keamari, and Malir of the Karachi division; and Hyderabad, Dadu, Jamshoro, Matiari, Tando Muhammad Khan, Tando Allahyar, Badin, Sujawal, and Thatta of the Hyderabad division.

The second phase of the local government elections in Sindh was scheduled to take place on July 24. However, it was postponed twice due to unprecedented rains and flooding in the country, particularly in Sindh. The ECP on October 18 decided to postpone local government elections in Karachi for the third time.

Published in Dawn, November 23rd, 2022

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