ISLAMABAD: A day after the federal government moved to delay local bodies elections in the capital on the pretext of an increase in the number of union councils, the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) said the elections would be held as per schedule on Dec 31.

A day earlier, following the decision of the federal government, the interior ministry immediately issued a letter increasing number of seats from 101 to 125. This increase in the UCs required new delimitations – a process that could take several months to complete. However, the election watchdog termed the said letter against the election law and rejected it.

“The Election Commission in exercise of its power under Articles 140-A (2), Article 218, (3) Article 219(d) and Article 222 of the Constitution read with Section 219 of Elections Act, 2017 and all other enabling provisions of law hereby decides to continue elections process notwithstanding the notification dated 19-12-2022 issued by the federal government as the said notification is in violation of Section 4 (4) of the Islamabad Capital Territory Local Government Act, 2015,” read the ECP’s order.

The said order was signed by Chief Election Commissioner Sikandar Sultan Raja and ECP members Shah Mohammad Jatoi, Nisar Ahmed Durrani and retired Justice Ikramullah Khan.

Insists elections to be held as per schedule; PML-N leader says govt bound to follow order

The order further said: “All the steps comprising filling of nomination papers, scrutiny of nomination papers, decision by appellate tribunals, finalisation of candidates, allotment of symbols, completion of polling scheme, appointment and training of polling staff and printing of ballot papers have been completed and stage is now set for poll on 31-12-2022,” it read.

A day earlier, PTI leaders Asad Umar, Fawad Chaudhry, Ali Nawaz Awan and Raja Khurram Nawaz lashed out at the PML-N government for attempting to delay elections and said the government after sensing defeat at the hands of PTI candidates in Islamabad was trying to get the elections postponed.

Decision welcomed

After the ECP decision, PTI leader Ali Nawaz Awan tweeted that PML-N’s attempt of escaping from the election process has been thwarted and now the PTI will force them to run on Dec 31, he said, adding that all candidates of PTI should continue their campaign with fervour.

Speaking to Dawn, he said the PTI would win the majority of seats and its candidate would become the mayor since the former ruling party had launched major development works in Islamabad, from the construction of interchanges to streets.

On the other hand, PML-N’s former federal minister and MNA from Islamabad Dr Tariq Fazal Chaudhry told Dawn that the government was bound to follow the ECP order.

“We will participate in elections in a befitting manner and we will win a majority of seats to elect our mayor as we did in the 2015 elections,” he said.

Asked why the government tried to get the elections postponed, he said: “We actually wanted that election should be held on the basis of new delimitations and the new act to have a vibrant and modern local government system.”

Dr Chaudhry said the PTI during its tenure could not complete any development work in Islamabad and it was the PML-N that executed major development work in the federal capital and many of the schemes were in progress.

“So based on our development works and performance, we will comfortably win these elections,” he said.

Former PML-N deputy mayor Syed Zeeshan Naqvi also expressed similar views. He said there would be no setback for his party after the ECP decision. “Our campaign is in full swing,” he added.

Jamaat-i-Islami (JI) Information Secretary Islamabad Sajjad Abbasi said his party welcomed ECP’s decision and termed the government’s decision to delay elections ‘mala fide’.

It is relevant to note here that the local government completed its tenure in February last year. As per rules, new elections should have been held within 120 days after expiry of tenure. The ECP earlier this year had decided to hold elections earlier and schedule was also issued, fixing July 31 as polling day.

However, the PML-N and other parties filed a petition in Islamabad High Court (IHC), pleading that instead of holding elections on 50 union councils (UCs), the number of UCs should be increased up to 101. To this, the IHC ordered for holding elections on 101 UCs and the ECP conducted new delimitation before issuing a new schedule, under which elections are to be held on Dec 31.

Published in Dawn, December 21st, 2022

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