ISLAMABAD: Even though it had warned that any changes to electoral symbols could delay the elections by holding up the process of printing ballot papers, an official from the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) told Dawn on Thursday that ballot-printing for certain constituencies had been put on hold due to litigation.

In addition, the commission has also not adhered to its own deadline for publishing a final list of candidates on the same pretext, i.e. that a number of cases are pending before the courts.

On Dec 22, the electoral watchdog issued a revised poll schedule, detailing the step-by-step procedures leading up to poll day, along with their dates. As per the schedule, the ECP was to issue its final allocation of electoral symbols to candidates on Jan 13, the final step before polling day on Feb 8.

However, several days after the passage of the due date for the issuance of symbols, the commission has yet to issue the final list of candidates. It has also not amended the notification of Dec 22, which called for the publication of a revised list of candidates on Jan 12.

Several days after ECP-specified deadline, final list of candidates is still awaited

On Tuesday, without specifying which court, the ECP had said in a statement that election symbols were being changed through various forums, and pointed out that it had already ordered the printing of ballot papers to the three printing corporations and the printing work had started a day earlier.

Although the process of allotting poll symbols, which was marred by controversy over the allocation of incorrect symbols, has now been completed, the final list of candidates is still awaited.

When contacted, ECP spokesperson Syed Nadeem Haider said that the final list would be released in next few days.

When asked to explain how ballot papers were being printed if the commission was facing the challenge of litigation, an official told Dawn that the printing of ballot papers for certain constituencies had indeed been put on hold under the circumstances.

He said attempts were being made to manage things, but each passing day was compounding the problem, adding that these were the challenges being referred to in the earlier statement issued by ECP, where fears were expressed about polls in some constituencies having to be delayed.

Affirming that the commission was on track and committed to holding free and fair general elections, the official said that all efforts are being made to resolve the issue as soon as possible.

Another official told Dawn that around 200 poll-related cases were pending before the courts, which had set off alarm bells at the commission, given the paucity of time to complete all formalities. He said the matter was also being taken up with the registrars of respective courts.

Published in Dawn, January 19th, 2024

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