Friday, January 13, 2023
Citing severe “security threats”, the intelligence agencies on Friday recommended the Elections Commission of Pakistan (ECP) to postpone the second phase of local body elections scheduled to be held in Sindh on Sunday (Jan 15), according to well-placed sources.
The development comes hours after the ECP decided to hold local government polls in Karachi and Hyderabad as per the schedule, rejecting the Sindh government's request to postpone the elections.
A meeting of the institutions "responsible for national security" was held in Karachi today, the sources said, adding that the huddle expressed “severe concerns” over the recent LG polls in Sindh.
The officials of the national security institutions conveyed the meeting’s concerns to the ECP and briefed the election organising body on the security threats.
The huddle also discussed the 17 security threats received during the past one-and-half months in the province, the sources added.
Strong networks of banned Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) and Balochistan Liberation Army (BLA) exist in the province, the meeting was told.
Terrorism has witnessed a spike in the country in recent months after the TTP ended a ceasefire with Islamabad and took innocent lives.
But the Pakistan Army's top brass and the federal government have vowed to beat the terrorists and eliminate the menace — however, the threat still remains.
The activities of militants have been mainly focused in Balochistan and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, with the former accounting for 31% of the attacks during the last year and the latter 67%, according to statistics provided by Interior Minister Rana Sanaullah.
But before the intelligence agencies' warning, Sindh Information Minister Sharjeel Inam Memon said that the provincial government had decided to delay the polls due to concerns of the Muttahida Qaumi Movement-Pakistan (MQM-P).
The Karachi-based party has stressed that the local body elections in Karachi and Hyderabad could not be held until a new delimitation, but at the same time, it did not rule out its participation.
"If despite our concerns, the elections do take place, then we will not boycott them. However, we will not accept the results of the elections," MQM-P spokesperson Ahsan Ghauri told Geo.tv.
The old guard of the MQM — Mustafa Kamal and Farooq Sattar — have merged their factions under Convener Khalid Maqbool Siddiqui's leadership, with Sattar saying that it was a "rebranded MQM-P".
The second round of LG elections was scheduled to take place on July 24 last year, but the Sindh government excused itself from holding the polls over the lack of security and police presence due to the flooding. Later, the elections were also postponed on August 28, October 23, and today, the announcement was made for January 15 — making it the fourth time that the polls have been put off.
Moreover, as the ECP has decided to hold the polls, it has dispatched the polling material to the distribution centres, from where they will be transported to the polling stations.
"If the elections take place, then the material will be dispatched to the polling stations tomorrow under police security," an ECP official, who wished to remain anonymous, told Geo News.
In light of the polls, the colleges and schools of the province have also been closed for tomorrow (Saturday) for election preparations.