The Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) ruled on Monday that the local government (LG) polls in Karachi, Hyderabad and Thatta divisions would be held on Jan 15 as per the schedule.

The verdict was pronounced by the Chief Election Commissioner Sikandar Sultan Raja on a petition filed by MQM wherein it had challenged the decision of the electoral body for the prospective use of two separate electoral rolls in the upcoming elections simultaneously.

At the previous hearing, the ECP had reserved its verdict on the plea.

On Monday, a three-member bench headed by CEC Raja rejected MQM’s petition, saying that polls in Karachi, Hyderabad and Thatta would be held as per the schedule and on the previous voter list.

He directed the Sindh government to complete arrangements for the elections, adding that the chief secretary and the law-enforcement agencies should also ensure that the elections were held on time.

ECP seeks deployment of army troops at polling stations

Separately, the ECP has requested the Ministry of Interior for the deployment of army and Rangers troops for the upcoming LG elections.

In a letter written by the LG Elections Director General Sharifullah — dated Jan 6 — the ECP asked for the “static deployment of Pakistan Army/Rangers troops outside highly sensitive polling stations along with already-approved QRF (Quick-reaction force) presence” on the day of the polls.

It said that the request was made “keeping in view the sensitivity of the areas concerned and in order to prevent any untoward incidents which are apprehended due to the volatile political environment”.

Second phase of LG elections in Sindh

After multiple delays, the ECP had on Nov 22 finally announced that the second phase of local bodies polls in Karachi and Hyderabad would be held on Jan 15.

Announcing the verdict that 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 impediments in that regard are surmounted by then,” the ECP said.

The commission had 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.

The term of the 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.

The second phase of the local government elections in Sindh was scheduled to take place on July 24, but it was postponed due to unprecedented rains and flooding in the country, particularly in Sindh. The electoral body rescheduled the LG elections for August 28, but they were put off again due to the same reason.

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