• Election watchdog announces schedule for most populous province
• KP governor says date to be decided in meeting with ECP next week

ISLAMABAD/PESHAWAR: The Election Commission of Pakistan announced the schedule for elections in Punjab to be held on April 30, whereas in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, the election watchdog’s meeting with KP Governor Ghulam Ali to develop a consensus on the polls date remained an exercise in futility.

With the Punjab polls to be held next month, the commission announced a plan for meetings with relevant authorities to give a final shape to arrangements for the electoral exercise, covering the availability of necessary funds and security personnel.

In this regard, the ECP also summoned representatives from the ministries of interior and finance for a briefing today (Thursday).

According to the ECP, secretaries of the ministries concerned will give a detailed briefing to the watchdog. During the proceedings, the finance ministry will be asked to provide funds for holding the elections. Similarly, the interior ministry will be asked to ensure availability of the army, the Rangers, and other law enforcement agencies’ personnel for security purposes.

According to the commission’s Media Coordination and Outreach Wing, the Election Commission will also request the interior ministry to contact the GHQ and the Ministry of Defence to ensure the deployment of the army for election duty.

The ECP also summoned an official of Military Opera­tions directorate for a briefing on security matters related to the elections on March 10 (Friday), it added.

On March 13, interim CM Mohsin Naqvi along with the provincial chief secretary, and the police chief have been invited to the ECP Secretariat for discussions on polls in Punjab.

A senior ECP official said that Article 220 makes it mandatory for all the executive authorities to extend cooperation to the Election Commission in relation to discharge of its duties and functions.

According to the schedule, candidates will be able to submit nomination papers from March 12 to March 14, the Election Commission will publish the list of candidates on March 15, scrutiny of nomination papers will be carried out till March 22.

Schedule for Punjab polls

According to the Election Commission, appeals against acceptance or rejection of nomination papers will be filed by March 27, whereas the appellate tribunal will decide on these appeals by April 3 and the revised list of candidates will be released on April 4.

Similarly, the last date for withdrawal of nomination and publication of revised lists will be on April 5 while election symbols will be issued on April 6, and polling for the Punjab Assembly elections will be held on April 30.

The notification said that the election programme shall also apply to the seats reserved for women and non-Muslims in the provincial assembly of Punjab and the last date for filing for separate lists of priority for seats reserved for women and non-Muslims before the returning officer is March 14.

By-polls

The Election Commission also issued the schedule for by-election in six constituencies of the National Assembly, which fell vacant following the PTI chairman’s failure to inform the ECP within the stipulated time of 30 days which seat he wanted to keep.

Meanwhile, the KP governor and the ECP team failed to decide on the date for holding general elections in the province. The ECP team reached the KP capital on Wednesday following a letter from the governor. However, the governor told the meeting that a final decision would be taken during his visit to the ECP office in the federal capital— probably next week.

No date for KP polls

In a statement following the meeting, the ECP said, “The secretary election commission has made it clear to the KP Governor Ghulam Ali that they are here only for a date for the provincial assembly elections.”

It added that making arrangements for ‘peaceful’ polls would be finalised in a meeting with the KP caretaker government and the law enforcement agencies.

The ECP also expressed concerns over the words used by the KP governor. Mr Ali, in a letter to ECP on March 7, had advised the ECP officials to be “well-prepared” on all issues involved in holding peaceful elections for the provincial assembly.

“There is no role of the governor in elections except for proposing a date. Under the constitution, holding peaceful polls is the responsibility of the ECP,” sources said, adding ‘the law enforcement agencies and the caretaker government will assist the ECP [on law and order situation].’

Meanwhile, Ghulam Ali stated that the consultations on fixing a date for the KP Assembly elections were in the final stage. In a statement issued by the Governor House, Mr Ali stated that the apex court’s orders would be implemented.

The consultations have entered the final stage but a final decision in this regard would be made during the governor’s meeting at the ECP office in Islamabad, the statement added.

Published in Dawn, March 9th, 2023

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