ISLAMABAD: The Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) on Friday rejected the Sindh government’s latest request to postpone local government elections in the Karachi and Hyderabad divisions, and ruled that the polls would be held on Jan 15 (tomorrow) as per schedule.

The ECP members made the decision during a meeting chaired by Chief Election Commissioner Sikander Sultan Raja at its headquarters in Islamabad. The commission deliberated the Sindh government’s request to postpone elections in Karachi and Hyderabad divisions and two tehsils of Khairpur.

The meeting came hours after the provincial government announced in the wee hours of Friday that the long-awaited local government elections would not be held in the two divisions. However, it decided that the polls in seven districts would go ahead as planned on Jan 15. In a letter to Sindh’s election commissioner, the local government department said a provincial cabinet meeting had cancelled the notification related to the delimitation of councils in the Karachi and Hyderabad divisions.

The electoral watchdog, in its meeting on Friday, reviewed the request sent by the Sindh government but unanimously rejected it and reiterated that the polls would go ahead as planned. The ECP, in a statement, said it would also issue an order in this regard.

PTI chides PDM for trying to escape Sunday’s polls; MQM-P threatens to quit coalition if delimitation demand not met

The commission also decided to direct the interior ministry to ensure the deployment of additional army and Rangers troops outside the most-sensitive polling stations. Earlier, the army refused to spare additional troops for static deployment.

PTI Secretary General Asad Umar chided the Pakistan Democratic Movement’s (PDM) coalition government for its attempts to escape elections in Sindh, followed by Islamabad. “They tried to escape in Punjab and ran away from general elections. Are they politicians or sprinters in a race?” he wondered.

Fawad Chaudhry, PTI’s senior vice president, noted that not only the ECP but the Supreme Court should also take notice of the Sindh government’s ‘controversial’ decision.

“If the PDM cannot contest elections, they should better quit politics and do some other job,” he remarked. Emphasising the importance of vote and elections, he said a democracy without votes would be a mere sham.

The term of the local governments in Sindh expired on Aug 30, 2020, and the commission was under a constitutional and legal obligation to hold elections within 120 days after the date. The second phase of the local government elections in Sindh was scheduled to take place on July 24 last year, but it was postponed due to unprecedented rains and flooding in the country, particularly in Sindh. The electoral body rescheduled the local government elections for Aug 28, but they were put off again due to the same reason.

The polls were then rescheduled for Oct 23 but were postponed again, this time because of the non-availability of police and other law enforcement agencies.

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

Separately, MQM-P warned the PDM leadership that it would leave the coalition government if its demand to hold LG elections in Karachi and Hyderabad on the basis of the new delimitation of constituencies is not met.

MQM-P sources said that the party had communicated its ultimatum and it would announce its decision at a workers’ convention scheduled to be held on Saturday (today).

They said that in a bid to pacify the leadership, PM Shehbaz Sharif, PPP chief Asif Zardari and JUI-F leader Maulana Fazlur Rehman phoned MQM-P convener Dr Khalid Maqbool Siddiqui and sought some time to find out an amicable solution.

Published in Dawn, January 14th, 2023

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