Saturday Jan 14, 2023
ISLAMABAD: The Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) has rejected the Sindh government's request to delay the local bodies polls in Karachi and Hyderabad, a spokesperson for the provincial electoral body told Geo News Saturday.
The Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) government in Sindh had once again asked the ECP to postpone local bodies polls citing the law and order situation and terror threats.
Chief Election Commissioner Sikandar Sultan Raja chaired an emergency meeting held to review to discuss the provincial government's request and decided that there would be no change in the schedule.
Election Commission Secretary Umar Hameed and provincial election commissioner Aijaz Anwer Chohan also attended the huddle via video link.
In a letter to the ECP Saturday, less than 24 hours before the polling, the provincial authorities cited input from the intelligence agencies regarding terror threats and “reiterated the request that the 2nd Phase of local government elections to the extent of Karachi Division and Hyderabad District be postponed till such time that the required security is available at the polling stations.”
This is the second time in as many days the Sindh government has requested to defer the polls to placate Muttahida Qaumi Movement-Pakistan (MQM-P), which has warned to quit the coalition government if its grievances related to delimitation were not addressed before polls.
The letter stated that the ECP, in its January 13 order, gave “no response to the concerns of the provincial government regarding the non-availability of Pakistan Army and civil armed forces” for the smooth conduct of polls.
It added that a meeting was held at the office of the chief secretary on Friday which was also attended by the ECP secretary as well as senior officers of law enforcement and intelligence agencies.
“In this meeting, the law enforcement and intelligence agencies apprised the participants of the precarious law and order situation along with specific threats to various political leaders and workers of political parties.”
It further added that the meeting further corroborated the fear and apprehension of the government that due to the prevalent situation, there was a greater need for the presence of troops of the Pakistan Army and civil armed forces to be statically deployed at the polling stations.
Meanwhile, in response to the ECP’s request, the Interior Ministry has approved the static deployment of Frontier Constabulary outside at all highly sensitive and sensitive polling stations to ensure the smooth conduct of said elections.
“The exact number of troops, date and area of deployment will be worked out by the Election Commission of Pakistan, Home Department Government of Sindh in consultation with Frontier Constabulary authorities, on the basis of on-ground requirement/assessment,” the letter read.
In line with the Interior Ministry's approval, as many as 20 Frontier Constabulary (FC) platoons have been provided to the Sindh police to assist in ensuring security during the LG polls in Karachi and Hyderabad, FC Commandant Salahuddin Mehsud said taking to Geo News.
"Over 800 personnel have been given to Sindh as per the federal government's directives," Mehsud said.
While commenting on the development, Sindh Information Minister Sharjeel Memon told Geo News that the government would give a response to ECP's decision after reading the draft of the ruling.
He said that the Interior Ministry had excused itself from providing additional security for the polls, citing the border security situation.
"The second letter was solely about the terrorist threats and security situation," Memon clarified.
When asked will the government go for the ordinance option to defer the polls, Memon said the government was bound to follow the ECP's decision. "Hoeever, there are certain requirements for introducing ordinances" he added.
Commenting about MQM-P's warning to pull out of the coalition government and its concerns regarding the delimitation of constituencies, Memon said that the government of Sindh played its role in the matter.
Talking to journalists, Sindh Election Commissioner Aijaz Chohan said the ECP had decided that the LG polls in Karachi and Hyderabad would be held as per schedule on January 15.
He said the process required to hold the polls was underway in all 16 districts, adding that the election material and the staff had been dispatched.
Chohan said that the dispatch process would be completed by this evening, while adequate arrangements had been made to ensure security at the polling stations.
"A strategic deployment process at around 500 sensitive polling stations is being made where Rangers personnel will be deployed and IGP (inspector general of police) has been asked to work out a plan in this regard," said he.
He conveyed the message to the voters that the polling would take place so they should come out to vote.
“ECP is ready to fulfil its constitutional duty,” Chohan said.
He said that today’s meeting reviewed the developments made in yesterday’s meeting and the request received from the govt today.
"The government and all authorities concerned are responsible for making arrangements to make the process foolproof under Article 220 of the Constitution," said Chohan.