HYDERABAD: As the provincial government’s attempts to delay Sunday’s local body elections on one pretext or another met with failure, the ruling PPP seems confident that it would claim victory in the battle for mayor-ship of Hyderabad.

PPP’s hopes are rooted in the fact that Hyderabad city’s muni­cipal limits have been defined in a way that suits the party; it has merged rural and Qasimabad talukas in the Hyderabad Muni­cipal Corporation (HMC).

“I want a jiyala mayor in Hyderabad,” Bilawal Bhutto-Zardari had declared at a Kissan rally in the city last year.

The Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) did not agree with the Sindh government’s con­­tention that some flood-hit constituencies in Dadu district wou­ld be unable to go to the polls, and that there were security threats to the electoral exercise.

In order to defer the polls for a fourth time, the Sindh government even withdrew the Dec 31, 2021 notification that defined the new limits of Hyderabad Municipal Corporation — one of the demands of the MQM-P.

The ECP, however, was having none of it. It had even declined a similar request for Dadu district’s talukas of Khairpur Nathan Shah and Mehar, which still remain badly affected by last year’s floods.

These two areas, the government had argued, were still inundated as per a report filed by the deputy commissioner/district returning officer (DRO).

“In order to determine the factual situation, ECP got verification done as far as Dadu’s conditions were concerned,” an ECP official said.

To this end, a committee was formed by Provincial Election Commissioner (PEC) Aijaz Anwar Chohan on Jan 5. The committee members visited Dadu on Jan 6 and recorded the statements of education officers who claimed that all schools were functional. The committee found that rainwater was only stagnating agricultural lands and not otherwise, and submitted its findings to the PEC that no village was found affected, as had been claimed in the DRO’s report.

The ECP also remained unimpressed by the government’s ple­adings for postponement of the polls, as well as the withdrawal of the Dec 31, 2021 notification that defined new HMC limits.

The MQM had questioned the new municipal landscape of Hyderabad on the grounds that rural areas had been merged with urban areas and the use of two voters list, though belatedly.

The PPP has already seen 26 chairmen returned unopposed out of the 160 directly-elected seats in the newly designed HMC.

“Delimitations should have been taken up with the government at the right time, which was not done,” said an ECP official, requesting anonymity.

“All of a sudden, the ECP was told by the Sindh government that there is a serious threat alert and terror activities can’t be ruled out. But the commission didn’t buy this argument,” said the official, adding that the government was again asked to ensure polling on Jan 15 as directed earlier.

Published in Dawn, January 15th, 2023

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