Sharjeel Memon says ECP can’t reject Sindh govt’s decision to delay LG polls

Published January 13, 2023
Sindh Information Minister Sharjeel Memon speaks to the media in Karachi on Friday. — DawnNewsTV
Sindh Information Minister Sharjeel Memon speaks to the media in Karachi on Friday. — DawnNewsTV

Sindh Information Minister Sharjeel Memon asserted on Friday that the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) could not reject the provincial government’s decision to postpone local government elections in Karachi and Hyderabad divisions.

In the wee hours of Friday, the provincial government had announced that the long-awaited local body elections would not be held and the notification to hold the polls based on the existing delimitation had also been withdrawn on the demand of their ‘coalition partner’, the Muttahida Qaumi Movement-Pakistan (MQM-P).

However, earlier today the ECP rejected the Sindh government’s request and ruled that the polls — which have been twice delayed — would be held on Jan 15 as decided earlier.

Speaking to the media at the launch of an electric bus service in Karachi, the Sindh minister said: “The courts have certain powers, the election commission has certain powers and the government has certain powers.”

He said that the provincial government reserved the right to issue a notification for the postponement of the polls. He asserted that the Sindh government had exercised its power in accordance with the Constitution.

He said that the Sindh government had exercised its powers as some parties had expressed reservations over the delimitation of constituencies and it did not want them to feel as though they had been wronged.

“We want each and every political party to be given an equal field to contest the elections.”

He said that on the MQM-P’s request, the notification issued under Section 10(1) of the Sindh Local Government Act (SLGA) 2013, was withdrawn, adding that this was the Sindh government’s “constitutional right”.

“The election commission cannot dismiss the notification. By law, the ECP cannot interfere with the rights of the Sindh government and vice versa.”

Talking about the ECP’s verdict, he said that it stated that army and Rangers personnel should be deputed at sensitive polling stations in Karachi. He said that to do so, a written request is supposed to be sent to the federal government.

“So we wrote to the federal government which said that personnel were engaged in fighting terrorists […] they said additional personnel can’t be provided.”

He wondered how the Sindh government could follow the ECP’s direction when the powers for deputing personnel lay with the federal government.

“If the ECP thinks the deployment is needed at sensitive polling stations, then they can contact them themselves or provide the Sindh government with an alternative.”

Memon further said that during yesterday’s Sindh cabinet meeting, the Sindh police chief had expressed concerns about threat alerts issued in the province regarding terrorism.

He said that the entirety of the Sindh police force could not be dedicated to ensuring security during the polls, wondering “who will take responsibility” if an untoward incident occurs.

Memon said the Sindh government would review the ECP’s written verdict and inform the people about any further measures.

ECP lacks jurisdiction: MQM-P

Meanwhile, addressing a press conference in Karachi, senior MQM-P leaders argued against the ECP’s verdict.

MQM-P leader Farogh Naseem said that the election commission did not have the jurisdiction to decide the matter since the Sindh government had itself withdrawn the delimitation notification.

 Muttahida Qaumi Movement-Pakistan leaders address a press conference in Karachi on Friday. — DawnNewsTV
Muttahida Qaumi Movement-Pakistan leaders address a press conference in Karachi on Friday. — DawnNewsTV

He said that any election held without conducting fresh delimitation of constituencies would be “void”.

MQM-P Senator Faisal Subzwari raised similar points, questioning how an election could be fair if the electoral lists and delimitation were not fair.

He also launched broadsides at the Jamaat-i-Islami, claiming that it was in a rush to see the local body elections being conducted since it was concerned about the strength of the newly united MQM.

MQM-P leader Farooq Sattar said that the ECP should “welcome” the Sindh government’s decision after “admitting its mistake” about the delimitation.

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